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Author's Name: Margaret Nowak
Date: Tue 12 Feb 2019

Margaret Nowak

Emeritus Professor Margaret Nowak

Margaret was the founding Director and Head of School of the Curtin Graduate School of Business from 1993 to the end of 2003. Since then Margaret has continued at CGSB in a part-time capacity, undertaking research and doctoral supervision in the areas of governance, corporate social responsibility and labour market economics. Margaret gained her PhD in Economics from Murdoch University and is also a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Recent research programs have included collaboration in multidiscipline research on nursing leadership and a research program on decisions and issues around the return to work of health professionals following maternity leave.

In the field of Corporate Governance Margaret has undertaken research on the information issues in accountability, shareholder activism and governance, comparative governance and corporate social responsibility. She has been involved in two submissions to The Joint Parliamentary Committee, Corporations and Markets, Commonwealth of Australia.

Margaret has served on a number of community boards including WA Lotteries Commission, WA, and Boards of Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, Western Australian Research Institute for Child Health. Margaret has chaired the Health Department of WA Audit Committee, the Department of Food and Agriculture Audit Committee. She is currently Chair of the Board of the State Library of Western Australia and a board member of the State Library Foundation.

Subject Area Expertise

Labour Economics, Economics of Information, Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility.



Responses (27)

October Budget 2020 - preferred four programs

Poll 42 

"The October budget will see the government announce additional policies to support recovery.  Please nominate the four programs you think would be the most effective (for an intervention of a given size) over the next two years"

Photo Credit: Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND 


Expanded investment allowance, Permanently boosting JobSeeker (Newstart) beyond December 31, 2020, Infrastructure projects, Social housing

Given that the current economic situation is the direct effect of the crash in spending by both consumers and business in the wake of disruption and uncertainty stemming from COVID 19, the policy response needs to have the maximum impact on direct spending. Each of the policies I selected will directly affect spending in a positive way. One off cash payments would also be spent but do not have continuing positive impact. The expanded investment allowance would support the growth in capacity and productivity in the private sector and create potential for business growth and thus employment. Expenditure on social housing both boosts direct spending and creates social benefits through supporting the health, employment prospects and family welfare of those growing numbers of Australians in housing stress. The permanent boost to jobseeker will have similar impacts on family welfare and employability of recipients. At the same time it underpins society's implicit contract with working Australians, which allows the private sector to shed employees but implicitly accepts there is a social contact that society as a whole will not "discard", but will support the welfare of those so affected. Infrastructure projects provide direct employment potential while, if well selected, hold the promise of increasing productivity and improving living conditions of the community. Each of these I have selected to have maximum impact on spending within the economy and thus on employment and employment recovery. Neither tax cuts for individuals nor corporate tax cuts can be assured to be spent and thus increase employment while they would have a detrimental impact on equity. Policy in relation to cleaner energy, while critical and urgent, requires a clear climate policy direction from government but does not necessarily require government taxpayer dollars for the private sector to act.

The legislated increases in compulsory super contributions should...

Poll 41

"The legislated increases in compulsory super contributions, which are set to climb from 9.5% of wages to 12% over the next five years should...."

Photo Credit: Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND 




In the longer term the increase to 12% would have upside for the economy and retirement incomes. However, the timeframe legislated is quite short given current conditions arising from Covid and could have a marginal impact on investment and employment decisions.

Motherhood, caring and the careers of Australian women - April 2019

Poll 37

Proposition 1: "Without changes to existing public policy or private sector practice in Australia, motherhood will always negatively affect a woman's career."

Proposition 2: "In Australia, fathers are more restricted than mothers in fulfilling a caring role while in employment."


Part 1 - Strongly agree


First and foremost there are strong cultural underpinnings to the labour market outcomes for women who become mothers in Australia. Culturally and structurally the Australian labour market largely still adheres to the male "breadwinner" model and this significantly influences the decision making and actions of fathers, mothers, employers and the government. The assumptions of this model underlie the ?statistical discrimination? which ensures that for young women there is the likelihood that their starting salary will be below that of their male peers, that they will in all likelihood receive less access to training, mentoring and employer sponsorship/special career enhancing projects. This is further exacerbated when the woman is pregnant/has children. This impacts family decision making post children as the male is identified as having greater earning capacity and thus the expected breadwinner. Cultural expectations also underpin choices women make upon return to work following maternity. Culturally the obverse of male breadwinner, the woman as carer, underlies the expectations of and attitudes of women who are mothers; from guilt feelings expressed by some working mothers to attitudes and preferences about who undertakes the childcare, the residual work choices open to women returning to work when balancing child care (eg shift work to enable a partner to be present to provide care) and the preference for part-time work to enable balancing of care duties and household maintenance which largely is an expected part of the ?carer?role. There is an interesting contrast with some studies available for Europe such as France and the data provided on Norway in respect of women returning to full-time work and the expectation of and availability of out of home childcare. The structure of the labour market, employment and the organisation and content of ?jobs? responds to this breadwinner model in a multitude of ways which then privilege the male breadwinner model. The rewards for ?presentism?, structuring of ?the job? content around the assumption of ?full-time? work, timing of training opportunities, meetings etc., single sex facilities available on some work-sites and the non-inclusive workplace culture in non-traditional fields of work are but some of these. The other side of this coin is the cultural expectations on men that make taking on the carer role an exception, both because the employment is not structured for them to be able to do so, and because both government labour market regulations around family leave and enterprise bargains and awards may distinguish the leave expectations for ?mothers? and ?fathers? differently.

Part 2 - Agree


Government Debt during the COVID19 Crisis

Poll 40

"Governments should provide ongoing fiscal support to boost aggregate demand during the economic crisis and recovery, even if it means a substantial increase in public debt"

Photo Credit: Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND 


Strongly agree


The critical fiscal support should be targeted towards supporting consumption expenditure along with skills enhancement and supporting people to get back into employment via child care support and adequate income support for the unemployed. As activity picks up there may also be a good case for targeted support for business investment expenditure via accelerated depreciation.

Congestion pricing - November 2018


Strongly agree


Congestion taxes would be expected to drive a number of behavioural changes that would serve to reduce congestion including switching time of travel, ride sharing, increased use of public transport, changing transport mode to cycling, long distance rail, working from home and employer initiated changes in starting and finishing times, video conferencing rather than face to face meetings...…..The inclusion with the policy of returning any proceeds to the community through tax relief supports the acceptance of the policy and effectively helps compensate those making adjustments which result in gains through lower congestion faced by those who cannot (or will not) change.

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 - Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)

1 - The Financial institutions can be expected to respond to the public airing of some of their recent actions in respect of customers by adopting a more conservative approach to providing credit. However, there is also already evidence that the financial institutions are restricting credit in response to the regulatory authorities concerns relating to overextension of lending in the housing sector, especially in relation to housing investment in Sydney and Melbourne.

2 - The impact on the performance of the economy from credit being less readily available is dependent on both what else is happening in the economy at that time and on where and for whom the demand for credit is not being met. In the long term a reappraisal of borrower eligibility may strengthen the credit system and support financial stability.

Australian Federal Budget 2018 - Reduce government debt or provide tax cuts? - April 2018

Poll 28

Proposition 1: "Slowing the growth in the debt to GDP ratio should be a priority for Australian governments."

Proposition 2: "Slowing the growth in the debt to GDP ratio is a higher priority than income or corporate tax cuts."


1 - Agree

2 - Agree

1 - Using the cyclical upswing to slow or even reverse the growth in the debt to GDP ratio will strengthen the ability of government to respond to the next fiscal downturn.

2 -

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."


Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)


Any Investment decision can be expected to be dependent on rigorous assessment of the expected rate of return (pre-tax) on that particular capital expenditure within the overall context of the business. A change in the rate of corporate tax in the US is not expected, in the short to medium term, to affect any assessment of pre-tax rates of return on Australian based investments. Tax rates will impact on comparative returns, all else equal, should an organisation have competing investment opportunities in the US within its stable. However, there are a number of factors which need to be considered and which make any outcome very uncertain. These include the potential impact of the US decisions on tax rates on the comparative rate of inflation in the US and on the US exchange rate. Focus also on the headline rate of Federal corporate tax in the US is misleading (state based US corporate taxes plus the intricacies of national tax laws) as it is the effective overall rate the organisation expects to pay which, at the margin, could make a difference. How the relevant effective overall rates compare, plus the potential macro-economic impacts of the US tax cuts means any marginal impact of the US decision is, at best, uncertain.

Journalism as a public good - January 2018

Poll 25

Proposition 1: "The modern phenomena of information overload and social-media-fuelled 'fake news' bring into focus the value of quality journalism. Quality journalism has a public-good dimension that warrants public support."

Proposition 2: "The Australian government presently provides funding for the ABC and SBS, Australia's independent public broadcasters. The Australian government should increase its financial support of quality journalism."


1 - Strongly agree

2 - Strongly agree

1 - The whole concept of 'fake news' is dismaying. Scepticism about some information purveyed by some politicians and news media has always been healthy and we have in the past had a media with sufficient diversity to challenge inaccurate or incorrect reports. The deliberate dissemination of reports with no basis in fact on a large scale seems to be a recent phenomenon( outside a war situation). It has the potential to be very damaging to our democracy. The need for quality information for our democracy to be able to operate and make determinations on social and economic issues, international  as well as domestic (noting the 'weapons of mass destruction Iraq affair), is the basis on which to attribute public-good status to quality journalism.

2 - Government support for quality journalism has been implicitly under attack, both in the reduction of funding for the ABC and SBS and in the attacks by some from government on issues such as claims of bias when reports are critical. It is important for our democracy that financial support for quality journalism is increased, both for these existing media and potentially for other independent sources. As economists we understand that quality information is important and valuable for decision making, that it can be costly to assemble and that where it is held asymmetrically, quality decision making is impeded. this is equally true of decisions on social, community and political issues as in economic decisions.

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."




Any net economic benefit stems from the potential for a decline in discrimination within the Australian community. The economic benefits, if this does occur, include reduced health costs, especially in the area of mental health, reduced suicide rates among youth, and reduced discrimination in the workforce, resulting in more optimal allocation of workers and thus marginal boost to productivity. It could also lead to fewer members of the queer community locating overseas to seek a more liberal climate to work, live and marry, thus keeping some of our creative citizens in Australia. However, we cannot be confident of this in the short-term. There has been a very apparent backlash to the outcomes of the survey and some evidence that discrimination will increase for some; the stridency with which a minority characterise the queer community as 'other' will possibly increase short-term disfunction. I hope I am wrong. I do not subscribe to the view that an upsurge in weddings will generate net economic benefits over the medium term.

The Finkel Review - August 2017

Poll 21

"The Finkel Review has recommended a mandatory certificate scheme that obliges electricity retailers to purchase a certain proportion of the electricity they sell from sources of electricity whose emission intensity is below a defined level. This is preferable to conventional approaches to the pricing of externalities, such as an emission tax or cap and trade scheme."


Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)


Pricing ,assuming it is possible to arrive at the cost of the externality and that a pricing solution is political feasibility, would appear to be the first best option. However, on this particular issue, first best options are not feasible and, without serious modelling, coming to a decision on which of the alternatives would provide the next best option is not clear.

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."




First, it is difficult with many of these services to specify service level to the degree required. Second, many of the consumers of these services lack consumer power because they lack information and information needs are complex and difficult to judge or because they are effectively clients of government rather than the provider or because they are really unable to have informed decisions on services for the very reason they need them. Government appointed advocates are sometimes the answer but can be captured by the provider. The philosophical overriding of emphasis put on the profit motive by commercial providers therefore is not consistent with achieving the best results for the service recipients. Cost to government is increased by the need for regulation of providers, rectification when things go wrong, while the profit which is the commercial providers motive has to be part of the cost equation which does not flow to the provision of service.

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."


Strongly agree


The market signals to women in relation to their participation in male-dominated industries continue to be very negative. Not only do they face a potentially challenging work environment with the need to be resilient to discrimination in hiring, bullying and sexist comments in the workplace but the evidence shows them that they will be offered lower starting wages than their male colleagues if they do apply, and significant evidence that it will be difficult to nigh impossible to achieve senior level positions where that is applicable. Women entering the traditionally male trades face strong discrimination at the apprentice/hiring stage and often a difficult work environment. The market is not a friendly place for women in these male dominated occupations and there is a strong case to be made that this is indeed market failure. That is the ground on which I conclude that some degree of government intervention is required. It is time that we dispensed with the often quoted excuses such as "we select on merit", "women do not have the right qualifications", "women are not taking the right qualifications", "women do not have the requisite experience". Each of these can be demonstrated to be flawed, though they have continued to be provided as excuses for the past 50 years! Get the market place signals right and the women will follow! Don't blame women, blame the market and those with the power to set and change the signals as to what will be rewarded.

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)."




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


Premised on Trump actually doing what he said he will if elected.

CGT deductions - March 2017

Poll 16

"Capital gains tax deductions for housing investment should be removed because they overstimulate the housing market, contributing to rising house prices."


Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)


I am certain I am uncertain about this because I am really not sure about the question!! Does it mean that the 50% discount (not a deduction?) on capital gains from housing sold after at least one year should be removed? Or is it talking about the availability of negative gearing, especially the option of deductions enabling offsetting losses on housing property against other income?The 50% discount on capital gains available for capital gains made after holding an asset for more than one year should revert instead to the original legislation where the capital gain was discounted for the inflation over the period the investment was held. The current situation is extremely distorting to markets, not only the housing market, since it favours the short -term. Yes, it stimulates demand and pushes up housing prices.The ability to offset losses on investments against earned income is also distorting the housing market. Aside from its impact on pushing up housing prices, the option of negative gearing is a disincentive to the optimal use of the housing stock and likely results in a distortion of the prices of different asset classes in the Australian market. The two in combination have been very detrimental to housing affordability for non-owners and have contributed in over-investment in housing in Australia relative to other assets.

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."




Grounding in micro-economic concepts is important for achieving full appreciation of the issues in macroeconomics. However, this should also include an introduction to behavioural economics which is contributing now to deeper understanding of the limitations of economic man as a guide to policy and thus depth to policy discussions.  A problem based approach to teaching economics combines the insights of Micro, Behavioural and Macro to look deeply at selected policies/issues and will facilitate deeper learning /understanding than either standard micro or macro courses which can seem by students to be very removed from the world they live in.

Part 1: 'Behavioural economics provides new and useful insights into individual behaviour.' Part 2: 'It is unethical for governments to use behavioural economics to

The total benefit of current levels* of migration to Australia will outweigh the total costs to Australia's economy.


Strongly agree


Behavioural economics - September 2016

Poll 11

Part 1: 'Behavioural economics provides new and useful insights into individual behaviour.'

Part 2: 'It is unethical for governments to use behavioural economics to "nudge" citizens.'


PART 1 - Disagree


PART 2 - Disagree


RBA economic growth targets - August 2016

Poll 10

"The Reserve Bank of Australia should be tasked with targeting nominal economic growth rather than inflation."


Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)


The original act establishing the RBA (end of 1950s) had a focus on objective of ensuring full employment (as well as stability of the currency ). The current inflation target reflects response to changes in the theoretical dialogue about the limitations and transmission mechanisms of monetary policy coupled with contemporary policy concerns of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Once adopted the inflation target may be said to have served Australia quite well. However, from the perspective of this history that ability to consider the changing dialogue and policy environment has been a strength of the RBA. The policy issues of this decade do require a re-consideration of both the role and targets of monetary policy. Nominal economic growth may be that target; however, of itself I cannot see that as a way out of the current impasse of low investment and productivity growth.

The Brexit - impact on UK citizens - July 2016

Poll 9

"Assuming it is implemented, Brexit will deliver net economic benefits, on average, to UK citizens within its first 5 years."


Strongly disagree


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."




The resources boom was an entirely different phenomenon from any potential upside for Australia resulting from consumption led growth in China. In the former there was a very significant positive impact on Australia's terms of trade (subsequently reversed). Australia was able to reap economic rents from its high quality (relative to many competitors) resource endowments, coupled with well developed existing production from those resources when prices were relatively high. The terms of trade impact had a flow on to real incomes and GDP.The massive capital investment programs spawned by growth in demand beyond existing capacity also gave the impression of further windfall. Market adjustments following the lagged development of excess capacity may, however, result in an overhang of capacity and subsequent capital market adjustments on account of this. It has already resulted in a strong reversal of the favorable terms of trade.In the case of the consumption led growth in China there will be opportunities for Australian services providers in many fields such as education, health, tourism. However, Australia does not have the obvious comparative advantage in these sectors that it had in the resources sector. It is very unlikely that there will be any favourable impact on Australia's terms of trade as a result of the refocusing of the Chinese economy, indeed they may even fall a little further with falling resources prices. Thus the real income boost achieved from the mining boom, which was the result of the temporary improvement in the terms of trade, will not be repeated. Australian services providers will need to be competitive with other developed economies including newer developed economies in our region such as Singapore. Australian suppliers will need to work hard and smart to be competitive in this market.

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."


Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)


Investors in technology and innovation businesses are subject to a higher degree of information failure/uncertainty in returns than is generally the case for other businesses, and potentially market failure in access to capital. However, the design of tax incentives that appropriately address this issue without creating other distortions is problematic.

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."




The statement makes the assumption that efficiency in the messy world of human relationships can readily be reduced to a question of physical resource allocation and that to attain this efficient outcome the giver and receiver gain no psychic value from the acts of selecting and of receiving the selected gift.

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."


Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)


The proposition that the reduction in penalties would lead to greater employment implicitly considers only the labour demand side. On the supply side we have to consider the preferences for leisure (at times when most of the community have leisure). The leisure/wage rate trade-off would result in lower supply at lower penalty rates? Is there an over-supply of people willing currently to work at Sunday rates which may still see enough supply to meet any increase in demand?