National Economic Panel



ESA National Economic Panel Polls





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Author's Name: Robert Breunig
Date: Wed 06 May 2020

Robert Breunig

Professor Robert Breunig

Robert Breunig is the director of the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute at the Crawford School of Public Policy. From 2015 to 2016 he was the Director of the Crawford School of Public Policy.

Professor Breunig is one of Australia’s leading Public Policy Economists. He has published in over 50 international academic journals in economics and public policy. Professor Breunig has made significant policy impact through a number of his research projects: the relationship between child care and women’s labour supply; the effect of immigration to Australia on the labour market prospects of Australians; the effect of switching to cash from food stamps in the U.S. food stamp program and the inter-generational transmition of disadvantage.

Professor Breunig’s research is motivated by important social policy issues and debates. His work is characterized by careful empirical study and appropriate use of statistical technique.

Professor Breunig’s research agenda has led to many partnerships with government organizations in Australia and overseas. He works regularly with the Australian Treasury, the Department of Employment, the Department of Industry, the Department of Communication and the Arts, the Productivity Commission, the Australian Bureau of Statistics as well as many other agencies. He has been a consultant to the private sector on marketing, mergers, bank competition and customer loyalty programs.

Subject Area Expertise

Robert Breunig particularly enjoys interaction outside of typical academic circles and takes pleasure in helping those who don’t usually use economics or statistical analysis to better understand and make use of these tools in their work. He has an extensive track record of helping the Australian public service to build research capacity which he views as a particularly important activity.


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Responses (9)

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"


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

I would make vaccine passports optional for those venues that wanted to use them. Consumers could then choose between those venues requiring vaccine passports and those who don't. One could consider lotteries which have been successful in other places. I'm also comfortable with no other measures. Once there is sufficient supply, the government could simply announce that in three months everything will be open again. That will provide an incentive for people to get vaccinated. Will some people free ride?. Yes. Will this impose excess costs on the health system? Yes. One response might be to deny health care services to the non-vaccinated; another might be to get rid of the national health care system. I support neither of those; we don't deny service to obese people, for example. There are real trade-offs between health, well-being and freedom that need to be weighed up. Reasonable people can disagree about the weights to give these things.

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 


One-off cash transfers to households, Infrastructure projects, More funding for education and training

It's not clear to me that the question is the right question. I would happily have policies that led to greater economic growth over 20-30 years even if they had little impact in the next two years.

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 


Be deferred


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

Ultimately, wage growth is linked to productivity. Short term wage growth can be created by cutting immigration, but overall immigrants appear to add to productivity rather than detract from it, so this seems like a bad policy for generating sustained productivity growth. Reducing regulatory burden, IR reform and improving the tax mix (lowering taxes on corporate and personal income and increasing taxes on consumption and land) are the types of micro-economic reform which will enable productivity increases which will lead to higher wages. It is important to remember three things: (1) low wage growth is a widespread OECD-country phenomenon so the forces driving it are probably not Australian-specific; (2) investment remains very low despite very cheap money being available; (3) productivity is about individuals and firms making decisions and government can create the conditions for it to happen but can't ultimately control what people decide to do.

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 




Governments should provide targeted fiscal support that doesn?t make debt go up too much. Untargeted splashing of extra money is unlikely to be productive and will harm the economy in the medium term.

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 


Strongly agree


There is very little downside to doing this and large potential upside. Prices are stable or deflationary so there is no erosion in real wages by a wage freeze, and if it leads to even some small employment increase, that is unambiguously good.

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"




Low rates of COVID-19 and very low rates of transmission in the population co-exist with government continuing to enforce very strict rules that damage the economy. Few lives will be saved relative to the huge costs to the economy.

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"




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 



Overall, the budget is balanced and non-ideological. It pushes required stimulus into the economy and shows a genuine concern for getting the economy going again. On the downside, wage subsidies are generally a poor way to generate additional employment and this one has several poor design features. The cap on total child care benefit receipt creates a well-documented cliff for second earners (mostly women) which makes it difficult for some people to achieve their desired working hours. This is a known problem and an easy fix. The Australian economy is in need of structural reform in order to create better conditions for growth and prosperity. This is particularly true in the tax area. This is not necessarily something that is appropriate for the current budget, but I would like to see the government signal its intention to tackle this issue in the medium-term.