Home > Economic policy > If the Productivity Commission puts ideology ahead of evidence, do we still need it?

If the Productivity Commission puts ideology ahead of evidence, do we still need it?

December 21st, 2016

That’s the title of my latest piece in The Guardian. It’s a response to the Productivity Commission’s report on competition in human services. I wrote a submission in response to the draft report a while back, but it had no impact, and neither did any other evidence.. If anything, the final report is slightly worse than the draft.

My final para

Rather than close on a negative tone, I’ll make one suggestion for contestability. Private sector consulting firms have demonstrated a long-standing expertise in producing impressive looking reports to support the (predetermined) conclusion required by the client.

Given the predictability of the Productivity Commission’s conclusions on topics like this, private firms would have no difficulty in replicating them. Surely this is a service that could do with being opened up to the chill winds of competition.

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  1. I am and will always be Not Trampis
    December 21st, 2016 at 12:11 | #1

    Yes we do.

    It was blindsided on this issue but it does not have a record of doing this in other areas unless i have missed something.

  2. GrueBleen
    December 21st, 2016 at 13:28 | #2

    …opened up to the chill winds of competition.

    Umm, don’t you actually mean “opened up to the balmy breezes of agile and innovative and creative endeavour [TM Mal]”, ProfQ ?

  3. GrueBleen
    December 21st, 2016 at 13:33 | #3

    Oh and PS: Shouldn’t do we still need it? really be did we ever need it?

  4. I am and will always be Not Trampis
    December 21st, 2016 at 15:18 | #4

    Di we ever need it?

    Alf Rattigan would be spinning in his grave.

    Of course we did.
    even Whitlam was a Rattigan man.

  5. GrueBleen
    December 21st, 2016 at 16:08 | #5

    @I am and will always be Not Trampis

    Yeah, Alf Rattigan was a blind ideologue and general traitor. We sure needed him – we needed him so much because, well, we just had to get rid of all that ‘inefficient’ industry that was just clogging up the Australian economy. And wau, have we finally succeeded in that !

    I bet if he’d been around then, he’d have pointed out that getting Australians, even “New Australians” to do The Snowy was grossly inefficient and we should have contracted it out to the Chinese.

  6. I am and will always be Not Trampis
    December 21st, 2016 at 17:59 | #6

    Yes we did need to get rid of all those inefficient industry.
    Our standard of living is far better for it.

    Perhaps you would like to bring back tariffs of over 100%

  7. totaram
    December 21st, 2016 at 18:22 | #7

    @I am and will always be Not Trampis
    Claim vs counterclaim and all we have is your word for it. Any data? You know those pesky things?

  8. Greg McKenzie
    December 22nd, 2016 at 06:22 | #8

    You notice there is no Efficiency Commission. We could use one in NSW. The Tramway project
    in the City, Badgery’s Creek airport and the M road extensions could all do with the oversight.
    Still can’t see how the tramway project went over budget by over $1 billion.

  9. Ikonoclast
    December 22nd, 2016 at 07:41 | #9

    @I am and will always be Not Trampis

    Yes, every nation needs to get rid of its inefficient industry to China… until China makes almost everything and the rest of the world makes almost nothing. Do you think China will keep playing the international capitalism game at that point? No, suddenly it will decide on high tariffs on imported manufactured goods to protect its own industry. It will no longer be interested in exporting except in exchange for raw materials. It has nearly a billion of its own people yet to be brought into its market.

    All processes have limits. There are of course limits to China achieving its goals. Off-shoring all economic triad (USA, EU, Japan) industry to China is not one of these limits.

  10. Jim
    December 22nd, 2016 at 11:26 | #10

    The PC must be all but devoid of any credibility if someone like Senator Matt Canavan was able to rise to the lofty levels of a Director there…..

  11. derrida derider
    December 22nd, 2016 at 13:49 | #11

    BlueGreen, getting ANYONE to do the Snowy would have been inefficient. The truth is it was both an environmental and economic disaster – the Ord River project writ large. This link explains.

    As a later part of that episode explains, only “engineers, economists and environmentalists – the lunatic fringe” ever dare question such nation building projects.

  12. derrida derider
    December 22nd, 2016 at 14:02 | #12

    As for the PC, they’ve just released a much better on report than their human services one on IP.

    One report based on contestable economic principles and very dubious empirics but which happens to appeal to the government’s prejudices and political friends, the other based on commonsense yet rigorous analysis and that provides clear benefits to the great bulk of Australians. Hmm, I wonder which is more likely to be adopted ….

  13. peter moylan
    December 22nd, 2016 at 14:23 | #13

    thanks John for the analysis of the Productivity Commission which you did decades ago-Peter Moylan

  14. rog
    December 22nd, 2016 at 14:55 | #14

    @Greg McKenzie

    I suggest the reason for the light rail cost blowout would be poor risk assessment.


  15. GrueBleen
    December 22nd, 2016 at 16:40 | #15

    @derrida derider

    Oh alright, DD, I’ll check out your link a little later, but I dunno, mate, you do seem to specialise in destroying our most precious beliefs. Next thing you’ll be telling us that the ANZAC expedition was an economic and environmental disaster too, and that Simpson was just a ‘leftie’ Englishman named Kirkpatrick who deserted ship in Australia and who didn’t really have a donkey but got one allocated from the pool on the days he actually turned up and wasn’t awol.

    And not only that, but just about everything we Aussies did – even making Holden cars – was inefficient and should have been contracted out to China – after all, that’s what the Americans did to get their railways constructed.

  16. GrueBleen
    December 22nd, 2016 at 16:57 | #16

    @derrida derider

    Aw c’mon, DD. That’s only a tv show – a very factually accurate tv show, I grant, but …

    Anyway, what about the tourists and the trout fishing and Thredbo and Perisher ? Huge roaring successes, mate. And also, Ord River was Snowy writ small, not vice versa.

    But yes, how an ‘engineering marvel’ – at least for Australia at the time – which also helped integrate very large numbers of European immigrants into Australia and its ways, and who reciprocally affected our ways too, could also be a ‘disaster’.

    However, I maintain my proposition: if we were gonna do it, it would have been more efficient to contract it out to China. So would have been the NBN – also a white elephant disaster.

  17. I am and will always be Not Trampis
    December 22nd, 2016 at 20:02 | #17

    I have one words for you. Cars!

  18. GrueBleen
    December 23rd, 2016 at 09:41 | #18


    You might enjoy reading some Noahpinion:


    Fancy that, subsidies, and maybe even tariffs, might work after all.

  19. Malcolm Thomas
    December 23rd, 2016 at 21:04 | #19

    The problem for John’s anslysis is that the PC’s conclusion is the wholly unremarkable and non-ideological position that it’s horses for courses, whereas John, it seems, demands adherence to his view that not-for-profit provision is always superior to for-profit provision. That he chooses to publish his jaundiced views in The Graniard only adds to the perception that it is John, rather that the PC, that is beholden to ideology.

  20. I am and will always be Not Trampis
    December 26th, 2016 at 10:49 | #20

    Are you seriously areguing there are infant industries in Australia at present?

  21. GrueBleen
    December 26th, 2016 at 14:01 | #21

    @I am and will always be Not Trampis

    Are you actually seriously asking a question ?

  22. John Quiggin
    December 26th, 2016 at 14:28 | #22

    @Malcolm Thomas

    This is wrong. I agree with “horses for courses”, that is the mixed economy, as, at least in principle, does the PC. The difference is that the PC wants for-profit provision for the entire market sector (everything for which consumers pay) as well as much of the non-market sector. I don’t support for-profit provision in the non-market sector, and support public ownership in some, but not all parts of the market sector, such as monopoly infrastructure.

    The difference in this case is that I present evidence supporting my view, and the PC doesn’t.

  23. I am and will always be Not Trampis
    December 28th, 2016 at 12:25 | #23

    name them

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