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Author's Name: Allan Fels
Date: Tue 12 Feb 2019

Allan Fels, AO

Professor Allan Fels

Professor Allan Fels is former Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Trade Practices Commission and the Prices Surveillance Authority. He was Co-chair of the OECD Trade and Competition Committee and has had numerous other government appointments. Professor Fels is Chair of the Australian National Mental Health Commission and of the Haven Foundation.

He is currently a professorial fellow at the Universities of Melbourne, Monash and Oxford.

Professor Fels is former Dean of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG).  He conducts training programs for Senior Chinese political leaders chosen by the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China and a Reciprocal Program under which the Chinese Communist Party hosts annually about 25 leaders from Australia and New Zealand.

Professor Fels was also heavily involved in the thirteen year-process of drafting China’s Antimonopoly Law, 2008 and he subsequently advised the Chinese antimonopoly bodies on the application of the law.

He is an editor of the China Competition Bulletin and a Director of the Chinese Competition Research Centre at the University of the Chinese Academy of Science.  He is also visiting fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Science.

Subject Area Expertise

Competition Law, Microeconomic Reform, Regulation, Mental Health.

Website

http://www.law.unimelb.edu.au/melbourne-law-school/community/our-staff/staff-profile/username/Allan%20Fels


Responses (22)


Professional Accreditation of Economists - March 2019

Poll 36

Proposition 1: "Professional accreditation for the economics profession would attract more people to economics as a career."

Proposition 2: "The benefits of professional accreditation for current and prospective economists would exceed any possible costs"

 

Part 1 - Disagree

7

Part 2 - Disagree

8


Royal Banking Commission (II) - February 2019

Poll 35

"There is no way to significantly increase the degree to which Australian retail banks act in the interests of consumers."

 

Strongly disagree

7

I believe that a great deal can be done to increase the degree to which Australian retail banks act in the interests of consumers. Quite strong and comprehensive measures will be required. The following are the most important: There should be a legislated separation of bank activities in marketing their own products and in purporting to provide independent advice to customers about what are the best products on the market as a whole. There needs to be an external authority to monitor and supervise the bank handling of remediation. The remuneration systems of financial institutions have got out of hand. The best starting point to this complex matter is to prohibit commissions and percentage payments and the like and to replace them with a fee for services e.g. an hourly fee for advice. We need a radical improvement in the performance of ASIC and APRA. In particular they need a change of culture. This will prove to be harder to do than it sounds. People have been talking for over twenty years about the ASIC and APRA culture needing improvement. Similarly there needs to be a change of culture in the banks. This will also be quite difficult and requires a radical overhaul of everything from Board membership; to new management arrangements; and to the establishment of incentives for good customer oriented service etc. There needs to be a strong follow-up to the Hayne Commission by the government. This also presents major problems. I do not have great confidence in politicians fixing the problems. The capability of government departments, even the Treasury department, is somewhat limited in relation to the scale of problems they will encounter. I am not enthusiastic about setting up a raft of new Commissions nor am I confident that the established regulatory constitutions on their own can solve the problems while so many difficulties lie ahead. Even so, I believe that significant changes can and will occur. The Royal Commission hearings, processes and report are themselves important drivers of cultural change. These comments are made on the day before the final report of the Royal Commission.


Banking Royal Commission and the Credit Crunch - October 2018

Poll 33

Proposition 1: "There is a significant risk that, either as a result of the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry or as a result of the financial institutions' response to those findings, credit will become less readily available to Australian households or businesses."

Proposition 2: "Assuming credit becomes less readily available to Australian households or businesses, this will in turn have adverse consequences for the performance of the Australian economy."

 

1 - Agree

2 - Agree


Will building more homes make housing cheaper? - May 2018

Poll 29

"A sustained increase in the number of new homes constructed each year, all else equal, will make housing cheaper than otherwise."

 

Disagree

5

The question as framed requires the answer "yes" but the question of whether it would make a significant difference gets a "no" from me.


US corporate tax cuts - March 2018

Poll 27

"The recent US corporate tax cuts will have no impact on investments in and capital flows into Australia."

 

Agree

7


Gig economy and worker welfare - February 2018

Poll 26

"The wages and conditions of Australian workers providing services in sectors affected by the rapid growth of digital on-demand subcontracting platforms will, on average, be expected to fall without further government intervention."

 

Disagree

8


Same sex marriage - November 2017

Poll 24

"Assuming that the law will be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry in Australia, this will generate net economic benefits for the nation as a whole over the next 10 years."

 

Strongly agree

10


Robots, artificial intelligence and the 'future of work' - October 2017

Poll 23

Question A: "Holding labor market institutions and job training fixed, rising use of robots and artificial intelligence is likely to increase substantially the number of workers in Australia who are unemployed for long periods."

Question B: "Rising use of robots and artificial intelligence in Australia is likely to create benefits large enough that they could be used to compensate those workers who are substantially negatively affected for their lost wages."

 

A - Disagree

B - Agree


Public borrowing for infrastructure investment - September 2017

Poll 22

"As interest rates are at low levels by historical standards, federal and state governments, despite their public debt levels, should be borrowing more than they currently are to invest in infrastructure"

 

Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)

3

If governments were to make independent, transparent and public business assessments of projects, and then in general select those ranked by benefit/cost ratios, then I would support the statement. However, given that current federal and state governments of all political colours prefer to pick winners primarily with reference to murky short term political objectives favouring big ribbon cutting options in marginal electorates, there is a high probability of poor choice of infrastructure projects; so denying the option may be second best.


Does privatisation of human services hurt outcomes? - July 2017

Poll 20

"For-profit provision of human services like health and education leads to poor client outcomes and high costs to government."

 

Agree

8


Gender diversity in the workplace - role of government? - June 2017

Poll 19

"The recent Parliamentary Inquiry into "Gender segregation in the workplace and its impact on women's economic equality" was asked to examine measures to encourage women?s participation in male-dominated occupations and industries. Although there is growing awareness of the productivity gains of gender diversity, the private market alone is unlikely to steer the Australian labour market toward gender equality in male-dominated industries. Breaking down gender segregation in the labour market can only be achieved with some degree of government intervention."

 

Agree

8

I have heard claims for many years that this does not require intervention as the private sector will take care of the problem. Not enough has happened and we now need intervention


Australian Federal Budget 2017 - Outsourcing Economic Forecasting - May 2017

Poll 18

"Given the Commonwealth Treasury?s ongoing difficulty in making accurate forecasts of some of the key economic variables underpinning the Budget ? in particular nominal GDP growth ? the Government should ?outsource? the economic forecasts used in framing the Budget to an independent agency (such as the Parliamentary Budget Office), as now happens in the United Kingdom."

 

Agree

8


Economics teaching - micro before macro - February 2017

Poll 15

"It is more effective to teach an introductory course in micro-economics first before an introductory course in macro-economics."

 

Agree

8


2016 US Election - November 2016

Poll 13

"Hillary Clinton is likely to be the superior US presidential candidate for the Australian economy and for Australia."

 

Strongly agree

10

I am concerned at her attitudes to trade. Having said that, the major trade agreements under discussion now have many limitations.


Social costs of gambling - December 2016

Poll 14

"The social costs of gambling exceed the benefits (including consumer surplus from recreational gambling and tax revenue for governments)."

 

Agree

8


Spend on education or business tax cut - June 2016

Poll 8

"Australia will receive a bigger economic growth dividend in the long-run by spending on education than offering an equivalent amount of money on a tax cut to business."

 

Agree

7


Budget 2016-17 - Returning to surplus - May 2016

Poll 7

"The recently released 2016-17 Commonwealth Budget projects that the Australian Government's underlying cash balance will return to surplus by 2020?21*. Australian politicians should rebalance the budget with greater urgency."

 

Strongly agree

8


China services boom for Australia? - April 2016

Poll 6

"As the Chinese economy makes its transition from investment-led to consumption led growth, the Australian service sector which currently accounts for around 20% of total exports, will produce a second 'Chinese economic windfall' for Australians."

 

Agree

6


Efficiency of tax incentives - February 2016

Poll 4

"New tax incentives for investments in technology and innovation businesses and start-ups are likely to be inefficient."

 

Agree

7


Bah Humbug Australia - December 2015

Poll 3

"Giving specific presents as holiday gifts is inefficient, because recipients could satisfy their preferences much better with cash."

 

Disagree

8

Small gifts are about personal relationships. In this context cash is cold and contributes little to the personal relationship. A considerate small gift brings a wider pleasure to the recipient than just the gift itself. It may also confer pleasure on the giver.If I were talking about big gifts, the situation could be different. If I were thinking of giving a substantial gift to a close family member, say a car, I would probably give cash instead leaving them free as to how they use the money.Behind this rather trivial question lies a bigger question about the role of vouchers and personal budgets. Economists are very familiar with the arguments in favour of direct payments to the disadvantaged. It gives them choice, it enables them to spend the money as they think best suits their personal needs. It empowers the consumer and disempowers the service provider.What I find interesting, however, is that voucher schemes often impose some limitations on how the money is to be spent.


Penalty Rates Reform - November 2015

Poll 2

"Aligning Sunday penalty rates for hospitality, entertainment and retailing industries with the current levels for Saturday, as proposed in the Productivity Commission's draft report, will lead to more employment and greater availability of services in these industries on Sundays."

 

Strongly agree

8

The case for this reform is very strong. It is worth noting that the 7-Eleven case and other disclosures indicate considerable non compliance with this law in a significant number of cases.