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Author's Name: Beth Webster
Date: Tue 12 Feb 2019

Beth Webster

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Professor Beth Webster

Professor Beth Webster is the Director of the Centre for Transformative Innovation at Swinburne University of Technology. She is also Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research Impact and Policy. 

She holds a B. Economics and M. Economics (Monash University) and a PhD in economics (University of Cambridge). She has authored over 100 articles on the economics of innovation and firm performance and has been published in RAND Journal of Economics, Review of Economics and Statistics, Oxford Economic Papers, Journal of Law & Economics, Cambridge Journal of Economics and Research Policy. She has been appointed to a number of committees including the Bracks' review of the automotive industry; Lomax-Smith Base funding Review; CEDA Advisory Council; the Advisory Council for Intellectual Property; President, European Policy for Intellectual Property Association; and General Secretary, Asia Pacific Innovation Network.

Subject Area Expertise

Economics; Innovation; R&D policy; Firm performance; Productivity; Intellectual property policy; Industry dynamics; Knowledge spillovers; Markets for technology

Website

http://www.swinburne.edu.au/business-law/staff/profile/index.php?id=emwebster

 


Responses (15)


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 - Agree

10

Fathers who take time out of their careers to care for young children (or other family members) often do not receive respect at workplaces from their male peers. The default position should be that both parents take some energy from their careers while they have young children rather than the other way around. Workplaces can encourage this by offering parents who resume full-time (full energy) work, additional opportunities to advance their career. The tradition of the macho man who works like a machine for 40 years, often relying on their wife to keep the household together, should die out. Its not healthy for themselves, their partners or their children.

Part 2 - Strongly agree

10


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

9

It is a matter of changing the business culture first by making it easier to punish banks who clearly violate codes of ethics and integrity. Second by making the senior management more accountable for the incentives they create in their organisation and the conduct of their employees.


Congestion pricing - November 2018

 

Strongly agree

10

Price is a better rationing device for these types of commercial goods and services.


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 - Agree

10

Fathers who take time out of their careers to care for young children (or other family members) often do not receive respect at workplaces from their male peers. The default position should be that both parents take some energy from their careers while they have young children rather than the other way around. Workplaces can encourage this by offering parents who resume full-time (full energy) work, additional opportunities to advance their career. The tradition of the macho man who works like a machine for 40 years, often relying on their wife to keep the household together, should die out. Its not healthy for themselves, their partners or their children.

Part 2 - Strongly agree

10


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 - Agree

2 - Strongly agree

1 - Saying 'best' may be too strong but the evidence is that prices do affect consumer behaviour, especially for products with immediate benefits such as a drink. We clearly have a health problem on our hands and few policies to date have reduced the problem.

2 - The list of chronic health problems from obesity is long and growing.


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 - Strongly disagree

2 - Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)

1 - Australia ran almost continual budget deficits after WWII and it led to the golden decades of low unemployment and low inflation. National governments can monetise debt and do not have to repay it.

2 - Neither have a lot to offer. Corporate tax cuts as a means of promoting investment is like pushing on a string.


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."

 

Strongly agree

9

Australia largely avoided the low-wage US-style secondary labour markets post-WWII due to policies of strong minimum employment conditions and large Government budget deficits. Without both these conditions, we are likely to follow the US path. Strong employment conditions may have a small effect on demand for workers but this can be countered by an expansionary monetary and fiscal policy stance.


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 - Strongly agree

1 - Clearly every one is in favour of quality journalism, but the problem has been that even before the rise of social media, much of the conventional media was not quality and erred on the side of sensationalism and bias. There was limited accountability for this and the self-regulation of the media industry was weak and slow.

2 - The oversight of publicly funded media needs to be bipartisan and above the control of the government of the day.


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."

 

Agree

8

The economic effects of legalisation same sex marriage will be to enhance Australia's reputation as a respectful and accepting society. This will further enhance Australia's ability to recruit talented and mobile workers. However, its hard to quantify the size of this effect.


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 - Uncertain

B - Strongly agree

Whereas potentially, artificial intelligence can deliver strong benefits to our residents, whether it will or not depends on how well we use this technology to increase our exports and position in global value chains; measures governments take to support well-paid jobs; and the collective efforts of civil society to dampen extreme wage inequality. A growth in low-paid, low-hours jobs is a more likely scenario than a growth in unemployment. Training programs with no end job do not have a track record for helping the unemployed. Its best to get people into jobs or enable them to start new businesses before you train them.


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"

 

Agree

7

With 700,000 unemployed (and another 700,000 underemployed) the Australian economy needs some demand side stimulation. It is unclear that it need be financed through public borrowings. With record low inflation, our economy can easily tolerate monetisation of debt.


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."

 

Disagree

8

It depends on the oversight from independent regulatory bodies and the culture of the professions working in the organisations. As we have seen from the unprofessional behaviour in the training sector, if ethical standards are poor, considerable harm can be done to students. This can be a problem in both the for-profit and not for-profit sectors.


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

10

The mandating of equal pay for women in 1972 is a case in point. Prior to this legislation, introduced by the Whitlam Government, women were paid a lower wage than their male counterparts for doing exactly the same job. Economic theory claimed that businesses which paid men above their 'marginal productivity' would go out of business. It therefore followed that lower pay for women reflected their lesser contribution and was a market equilibrium.The experience of legislated equal pay showed the error of this theory. Women did not suffer a fall in employment post-1972 but continued their steady rise in workforce participation. Economic theory needs a more nuanced understanding of the sociology of the people they are seeking to model. Legislation and other forms of intervention can change attitudes and behaviours in the labour market in a beneficial way.


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

9

Generally, the average of multiple independent forecasts are more accurate than one forecast - but in the case of the budget, this can be empirically verified. To do this, Treasury would need to commission several independent expert assessors (including university experts). The Treasury would have to make detailed budget data available to independent experts. This would also bring transparency and confidence to the public discussion about budgets and spending.


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."

 

Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)

5

Australian gas producers are preferencing export markets because they can get contracts with certain prices. If we, the Australian consumer, want certainty over our gas supplies, we also need to offer these contracts. Offering these contracts will also give companies the confidence to invest in new gas fields. Offering these contracts will not solve our problems in the short term but is a longer term solution.