National Economic Panel



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Author's Name: Lata Gangadharan
Date: Tue 12 Feb 2019

Lata Gangadharan

Professor Lata Gangadharan

Lata Gangadharan is a Professor of Economics and Joe Isaac Chair of Business and Economics at Monash University. She is an experimental and behavioural economist. A key focus of her research has been on developing novel experimental methods to study economic and social institutions. Her recent research focuses on incentives and preferences and addresses the following topics: peer sanctioning to mitigate the effect of social and environmental dilemmas, propensity for prosocial and antisocial behaviour, incentives for compliance and auditing, and gender and social identity. Her research has been published in several general interest and field journals, such as, Science, Nature Communications, American Economic Review, European Economic Review, Journal of Public Economics, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Experimental Economics and Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization. She is currently a Co-Editor of Experimental Economics and is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.

Subject Area Expertise

Experimental Economics, Environmental Economics, Institutions and Development.


Responses (35)

Promoting vaccination uptake in Australia

Poll 49

"What measures should Australian governments adopt to promote demand for vaccination once supply is no longer a constraint?"

Photo credit "Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND"


Cash incentives for vaccination;Vaccine passports for higher-risk settings (eg. flights, restaurants, major events);Lotteries with cash or prizes for the vaccinated;National advertising campaigns

Once supply issues are resolved, if we still see low vaccination rates, then disseminating information about the benefits of vaccination not just for oneself but also for others is important. Vaccination is really a public good. We haven't seen much of an information campaign in Australia. Methods that use persuasion rather than coercion would be more effective. This is where incentives come in: both monetary and non-monetary. Non-monetary measures such as social information, nudges etc should not be dismissed. These have the potential to be more effective than the monetary ones in this case. Though I can see a case for vaccination being mandatory for high risk occupations, mandatory policies are often not effective and can sometimes backfire, so one should be cautious about using them. Also some exceptions will need to be made even if the policy is mandatory, and this creates opportunities for inequalities, corruption and rent seeking.

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 


Permanently boosting JobSeeker (Newstart) beyond December 31, 2020, Infrastructure projects, Incentives for renewable energy, More funding for education and training

Infrastructural projects and funding for education and training are great (long term) ways to support a sustained economic recovery. In terms of short term measures: boosting jobseeker would help. This is also a good opportunity to fund projects which use renewable energy so that the economic recovery is environmentally friendly.

Policies to deliver higher wage growth

Poll 48

Our panellists were asked

"Higher wages growth is now a top priority of the RBA in its efforts to sustain stronger economic growth. Please identify the three of these government policies you think would best help deliver higher wages growth".  

Photo credit "Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND"



Measures to boost productivity growth;Measures to boost business investment;Reforming industrial rel

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


Some form of income support needs to be considered for the next few months. Governments should not be worrying about public debt during such difficult times.

Wage freeze for economic recovery

Poll 39

"A freeze in the minimum wage will support Australia's economic recovery"

Photo credit: Wes Mountain/The ConversationCC BY-ND 




A freeze in the minimum wage will be easier for businesses as a wage increase is hard to contemplate right now, but this wont really aid economic recovery. To increase demand we need people (particularly those on low wages) to have money. A freeze in the minimum wage wont help with that.

Social Distancing Measures, May 2020

Poll 38

"The benefits to Australian society of maintaining social distancing measures sufficient to keep R<1 for COVID-19 are likely to exceed the costs"




We do not yet know the full health implications of COVID-19. The economic implications are more obvious and while the economic impacts can not be ignored, social restrictions should be eased only gradually, keeping the health guidelines in mind. Australia has done exceptionally well at reducing the case load but this needs to be monitored. Testing could be increased before restrictions are eased.

Transition to electric cars

Poll 47

This month, our panellists were asked whether Australia should take action to speed the transition to electric cars.

"As part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions, Australian governments should take action to accelerate the take up, or take no action to accelerate the take up of electric cars"

Photo credit "Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND"


Remove the luxury car tax from all-electric cars, Subsidise only the purchase of non-luxury all-electric cars, Subsidise public charging points for electric cars, Set a date to ban the import of petrol and diesel cars, Make charging points compulsory in new homes and new carparks


Many of these policies can be implemented in conjunction with each other. In Australia, there is hardly a market for electric cars. To kickstart it, perhaps we need some variant of stringent regulations, such as the second (banning the import of petrol and diesel cars) and the fifth option (compulsory charging points in new homes and carparks), in the list. Once these regulations are in place, a market will be created and market based incentives such as subsidies can help.

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


The first proposition: it is clear that without changes in public policy or changes in organizational design, women would find it difficult to balance motherhood and careers. I find the second proposition difficult to understand. Perhaps it is how it is worded? Most organizations do not have generous paternity leave and caring roles for men are often looked down upon. Social norms do make it therefore difficult for men to fulfill a caring role, but I am not sure how it compares to women.

Part 2 - Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)


The Federal Budget May 2021

Poll 46

"On May 11, the government delivered a budget designed, in the Treasurer's words, to 'secure Australia's economic recovery and build for the future'.  What grade would you give the budget given that objective, A, B, C, D, E, F?"

Photo credit Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND




There were several things to like in this year's budget. For example, the spending on health was good to see, as was the spending on child care related aspects. There were however some glaring omissions as well. Tertiary education has missed out again this year. There is no plan for improving research funding or research infrastructure. Similarly, investment in infrastructure related to opening the economy (building secure facilities for quarantine etc), seems missing. This can cost Australia both in the short term and in the long term.

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."




Policies that focus on accountability would help. Most importantly though some attention needs to be paid to the contracts and incentives given to financial managers. These contracts (salaries and bonuses) could explicitly include improvements in consumer welfare, rather than just be conditional on an increase in profits for the banks.

Congestion pricing - November 2018




In general, targeting the externality directly by taxing it would be better. In some cases, one may need to think of equity. Can richer people access public transport more than poorer people, who will then have to pay higher tolls to commute to work, for example. Would their general taxes be lowered enough to compensate them?

Top economists want JobSeeker boosted by $100+ per week and tied to wages

Poll 44

"Ahead of a decision about any permanent increase expected early next year, The Conversation and the Economic Society of Australia asked 45 of Australia’s leading economists where they thought JobSeeker should settle."

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



I think the supplement should be increased. This doesn't seem to be the time to take the stimulus away. There are not many jobs available now, so those who are looking for jobs are not likely to find them.

Does the budget rebuild our economy and create jobs?

Poll 43

"On 6 October, the Government delivered a budget designed, in the Treasurer's words, to 'rebuild our economy and create jobs'.  What grade would you give the budget given the objective?  A, B, C, D, E, F"

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



The focus on getting young people employed is a good part of the budget. The budget did very little to improve opportunities for women though, on this aspect I would say it failed miserably, I would give it a D on that. I would have also liked to see some initiatives for a green recovery. The current budget is a missed opportunity in that respect as well. The promise of recovery via tax cuts seems too optimistic. Overall I would grade the budget as a B minus.

Sugar sweetened beverage tax for Australia - July 2018

Poll 31

Proposition 1: "The best economic policy instrument available to policy makers seeking to address obesity and related health issues in Australia is the introduction of a tax on sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs)."

Proposition 2: "The health and non-health benefits from a tax on SSBs are likely to outweigh the possible costs felt elsewhere in the economy."


1 - Disagree

2 - Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)

1 - Taxes dont seem to have had much of an impact in other countries where they have been tried. This could be due to the low elasticity of demand for soft drinks.  Taxes on soft drinks therefore may not proportionately affect the quantity of soft drinks consumed. Taxing soft drinks could also lead to perverse effects, such as a reallocation of resources towards goods and services that are worse in terms of the negative externalities they cause (for example, alcoholic beverages). Perhaps other policies would be better to consider: government advertising, subsidising healthier alternatives etc.

2 -

Electric vehicles and road-use pricing - June 2018

Poll 30

"Pricing of road-use for electric vehicles should be the same as fossil fuel-powered vehicles."




Fossil fuel powered vehicles clearly create negative externalities in society. Electric powered vehicles are a viable alternative to fossil fuel powered ones and also reduce the negative externality being created. The government should therefore intervene (at least in the short run) in the market, in this case through subsiding electric cars, in order to reduce the market failure.

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 - Disagree

2 - Disagree

1 - The answer to this would depend on how the economy is performing currently. Recent figures show economic growth to be below the threshold where it would be considered strong and sustainable. Inflationary pressures are also mild right now and unemployment is higher than ideal. This suggests that the performance of the economy is not very strong. The RBA interest rates are also at record lows, which indicates that with inflation being mild, the RBA believes that now is the time to stimulate economic growth. Prioritising paying back debt at this point would only undercut what the RBA is trying to achieve.

2 -

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."




Merit criteria are argued to be very important and they should be. However the significant lack of diversity at the top, in fields where women are performing well, seems to suggest that merit is not the only criteria being used currently. Some intervention is therefore needed to level the playing field: such as changing institutional culture, making diversity information public, perhaps even quotas for a temporary period (to help increase exposure to women leaders and change the organisational culture).

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."




There will be trade-offs between the profit objective and social responsibility and the costs would be incurred by the government.

Energy shortages - reserving Australian gas - April 2017

Poll 17

"In response to energy shortages around Australia, government policies requiring gas producers to reserve some production for domestic consumption are a good way to ensure that Australian consumers have access to sufficient gas supplies while still allowing for gas exports."




Sounds like a protectionist policy which is not great. If energy reserves are low then markets may figure out how to use the scarce resources appropriately and also alternatives such as renewable resources would enter to reduce scarcity.

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)."




Depends on how one thinks about social costs. If we were to include the moral costs of gambling and the associated implications for corruption and fraud, then the social costs would be certainly higher than the benefits from increased revenue generation.

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


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."


Strongly agree


I think it is more effective to teach Microeconomics first as it can help lay the foundations for macroeconomics. Most students would be able to relate to individual behavior and firm behavior and this helps them connect later to aggregate behavior.

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"




When Interest rates are low, it may be a good time to borrow. If the borrowing is to invest such that, the investment increases Australia's productive capacity, then there will be some potential for repayment and reduction of public debt in the future.

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."




More weddings would mean more money being spent locally which should generate net economic benefits.

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 - Agree

2 - Agree

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


Immigration - November 2016

Poll 12

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




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."




Being flexible in terms of examining wider economic conditions as well as inflation targets is reasonable, but the main focus of the central bank is usually the inflation rate.

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."




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 service sector is more advanced in Australia as compared to China, in terms of its professionalism and ethical practices. So one expects there to be demand for this as China transitions to a consumption led growth path.

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."




Cash transfers are often seen to be more efficient and less paternalistic. So Cash as gifts would be better for adults, but for young children cash is not a gift! They like a gift they can hold.

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)


While this may mean that employers can pay a lower rate on Sundays, some employees may choose to not work at the lower rate. So it is not clear if employment would definitely increase.