Profile: Professor Ross Garnaut

Profile: Professor Ross Garnaut

Leaping into the political fray, Professor Ross Garnaut, author of the Government-sponsored Climate Change Review, says Australia’s position on climate change “is weak only because of an extraordinary failure of leadership”. Worst of all, he says, neither of the major political parties has committed itself to policies that can get us anywhere near even the unconditional commitment to 5% reduction from 2000 levels by 2020,”

Paul Kelly, Editor-at-large, The Australian (6 August 2010): 

PROMINENT adviser to the Labor government Ross Garnaut has attacked both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

He has accused them of a failure of leadership in tackling climate change.

In his 2010 Hamer Oration last night, Professor Garnaut attacked Mr Rudd for an abdication of leadership, and warned that the current Prime Minister had repeated her predecessor’s blunder with her own climate change retreat.

Professor Garnaut made a point of criticising political advisers who gave priority to “short-term politics”.

Australia’s position on climate change “is weak only because of an extraordinary failure of leadership”, he said.

Referring to Mr Rudd’s advisers, he said: “They ignored the crucial respect for and role of leadership in the democratic process. In accepting their advice, Kevin Rudd abdicated the leadership of Australia and set the scene for the destruction of his prime ministership.

“More curious, given the Rudd experience, is the acceptance of similar advice from the same advisers by the new and current Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. The (Gillard) statement on climate change policy on Friday, July 23, has precipitated a collapse of political support that is reminiscent of the Rudd abdication.”

Speaking at the University of Melbourne, Professor Garnaut said these collective failures represented “the nadir of the early 21st-century political culture, in which short-term politics and accession to sectional pressures has held sway over leadership and analysis of the national interest”.

He said the paradox in these decisions was the majority public support in Australia for climate change action. This should have opened the way to effective political leadership.

The reality, however, was that Australia was conspicuous “for the weakness of its unconditional commitments” on targets.

“Worst of all, neither of the major political parties has committed itself to policies that can get us anywhere near even the unconditional commitment to 5 per cent reduction from 2000 levels by 2020,” he said.

He said the necessary policy had two elements: an adequate price on carbon and devoting much of the revenue from selling emissions permits to support new low-carbon technologies.

“Leadership is an essential missing ingredient in contemporary public policy,” he said. “Omitted, all the voyage of our lives is bound in shallows and miseries.”


Professor Ross Garnaut

Ross Garnaut is an economist whose career has been built around the analysis of and practice of policy connected to development, economic policy and international relations in Australia, Asia and the Pacific. He has held senior roles in universities, business, government and other Australian and international institutions.

He is Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow and Professorial Fellow in Economics at The University of Melbourne. He is also Distinguished Professor of Economics at The Australian National University. In December 2009, Ross was awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, from the Australian National University.

Ross is Chairman of Lihir Gold Limited and Chairman of the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program Limited.

Ross was Head of the Economics Department and Division of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at The Australian National University for over a decade from 1989. He played leading roles from the mid-seventies until 2009 in building The Australian National University’s capacity in research and graduate education on Southeast Asia, China (including as Chairman of the China Economy and Business Programme from its foundation in 1989 to 2009), and South Asia. He is the author or editor (alone or jointly with others) of 37 books and numerous influential articles in scholarly journals and books on international economics, public finance, and economic development. He has been Chairman of the Editorial Boards of the journals Asian-Pacific Economic Literature and Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies since 1989. Ross is a founding Director of both the Lowy Institute of International Policy and of Asialink. He was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the International Food Policy Research Institute (Washington DC) from 2006 to June 2010.

He has held a number of senior Government positions, including as head of the Financial and Economic Policy Division of the Papua New Guinea Department of Finance in the years straddling Independence in 1975; principal economic adviser to Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke; Australian Ambassador to China (1985-88). He has led many high-level Government Reviews and Commissions, including the preparation of the Report to the Australian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister ‘Australia and the Northeast Asian Ascendency’ (1989); the Review of the Wool Industry (1993); the Review of Commonwealth-State Funding (2002); and the Garnaut Climate Change Review (2008). He has led Australian diplomatic missions interacting at Head of Government level to Asian countries on trade policy (1984), to Korea (1989) and the ANC in South Africa.

Ross has been consulted on trade policy and relations with Asia and the Pacific from time to time by the Prime Minister and senior Ministers of successive Australian governments since the Fraser Government (1975-1983).

He has held positions as Chairman of the boards of large Australian and international public companies continuously since 1988, including the Bank of Western Australia, the Primary Industry Bank of Australia and Aluminium Smelters of Victoria.

Ross and his wife Jayne have farming interests on the southwest slopes of New South Wales. He was Chairman of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research from 1994 to 2000.


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