Productivity Commission

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Productivity Commission
Productivity Commission (Australia) logo.jpg
Agency overview
Formed 1998
Preceding agencies
  • Industry Commission,
  • Bureau of Industry Economics,
  • Economic Planning Advisory Commission
Jurisdiction Commonwealth of Australia
Headquarters Canberra
Employees 197 [1]
Annual budget 37,956,000 [2]
Ministers responsible
Key document
  • Productivity Commission Act 1998

The Productivity Commission is the Australian Government's principal review and advisory body on microeconomic policy, regulation and a range of other social and environmental issues. Its role, expressed simply, is to help governments make better policies in the long-term interest of the Australian community. The Productivity Commission was created as an independent authority by an Act of Parliament in 1998.

The Commission operates within the Treasury portfolio and its core function involves responding to references from the Treasurer, which can request a commissioned study or a public inquiry. References will stipulate the length and terms of the project and may cover any sector of the economy; address a particular industry or cut across industry boundaries; and involve wider social or environmental issues.

Most projects are specified for nine or twelve month durations, although some may be six or fifteen months. Both studies and inquiries accept submissions from members of the public and involve the public release of a draft and final report, although inquiries are additionally required (under the Act) to undertake formal public consultations.

In addition, the Commission has responsibility for assessing the application of safeguard measures under the World Trade Organisation guidelines, acts as the secretariat to the intergovernmental Review of Government Service Provision, and produces regular reports on Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage and Indigenous Expenditure that contribute to a better understanding of the effectiveness of government services provided to Indigenous Australians. The Commission can also self-initiate research on industry and productivity issues.

Productivity Commission reports often form the basis of government policy. However, the Commission does not administer government programs or exercise executive power and governments are not required to act on its recommendations; although in practice more recommendations have been accepted than rejected.


The Commission traces its lineage back to the Tariff Board, which was established in the 1920s. In January 1974, the Tariff Board became the Industries Assistance Commission and, later, the Industry Commission in 1989.

The Productivity Commission was created as an independent authority in April 1998 under the Productivity Commission Act 1998, to replace the Industry Commission, Bureau of Industry Economics and the Economic Planning Advisory Commission. These three bodies which joined to form the new Commission were amalgamated on an administrative basis in 1996.

The Commission’s remit has on occasion extended beyond Australia, such as when the Commission worked jointly with the newly formed New Zealand Productivity Commission on a study into Trans-Tasman Economic Relations in 2012. [3]

Chairs of the Productivity Commission[edit]

Name Dates
Gary Banks 17 April 1998 – 11 March 2013
Peter Harris -


The Commission is headed by a Chairperson and between 4 and 11 other Commissioners, who are appointed by the Governor-General for periods up to five years. Associate Commissioners can be appointed by the Treasurer on a full or part-time basis. Commission staff are Commonwealth public servants. The average number of employees in the 2011–2012 financial year was 197.[4]

The Commission reports formally through the Treasurer to the Australian Parliament, where its inquiry reports are tabled. Final inquiry reports must be tabled in Parliament within 25 sitting days of the Government receiving the report.

What makes the Commission unusual, if not unique, among public sector institutions around the world, is the combination of three core principles which it embodies:

• Independence. The Commission operates under the protection and guidelines of its own legislation. It has an arm’s length relationship with the Government. While the Government largely determines its work program, it cannot tell it what to say and the Commission’s findings and recommendations are based on its own analyses and judgments.

• Transparency. The Commission’s advice to government, and the information and analysis on which it is based, are open to public scrutiny. Its processes provide for extensive public input and feedback through hearings, workshops and other consultative forums, and through the release of draft reports and preliminary findings.

• A community-wide focus. The Commission is obliged under its statutory guidelines to take a broad view, encompassing the interests of the economy and community as a whole, rather than just particular industries or groups.

Recent work[edit]

The Commission has reported on a very wide range of subjects and industry. Recent studies and inquiries have included reports on:

Electricity network regulatory frameworks

• Disability services and support (DisabilityCare Australia)

• Benchmarking regulation of planning and zoning

• Benchmarking regulation by local governments

• Impacts of Council of Australian Governments reforms


• Urban water

• Regulation of airport services

• The structure and performance of the Australian retail industry

• The workforce of the schools sector

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Annual Report 2011–12" (PDF). Productivity Commission. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "Annual Report 2011–12" (PDF). Productivity Commission. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  3. ^ "Strengthening Trans-Tasman Economic Relations". Productivity Commission. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  4. ^ "Annual Report 2011–12" (PDF). Productivity Commission. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 

External links[edit]