New Productivity Commission Chair to work on reform agenda

Federal cabinet has recommended senior Victorian bureaucrat Chris Barrett to head the Productivity Commission for the next five years.

Chris Barrett

Mr Barrett has almost three decades of experience in public policy domestically and overseas, including as Australia’s Ambassador to the OECD, Executive Director of the European Climate Foundation, and chief of staff to former Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan.

He is currently Deputy Secretary of the Economic Division in the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance, and prior to that Mr Barrett led the state government’s Covid-19 economic recovery strategy as CEO of Invest Victoria.

Making the announcement on Monday, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said it was time to renew the Productivity Commission in order to build a stronger economy, and the government would work with Mr Barrett to ‘refocus and renovate’ the commission.

That meant ensuring the commission provided insights and perspectives that took “a more modern approach” to data and recognised the opportunities of the energy transformation and human capital.

“All of these sorts of things will be central to the way that we recast the Productivity Commission,” Mr Chalmers told a media conference.

“I’m certainly looking to revitalise and renew and refocus the Productivity Commission. There’ll be some people that say leave the PC exactly as it is, others will say abolish it entirely.

“I think we’ve got a really important opportunity here under Chris Barrett’s leadership to take the PC forward into the future in ways that recognise that the productivity challenge has evolved as well.”

Mr Barrett will take the reins from outgoing Productivity Commission Chairman Michael Brennan, who  departs after delivering more than 20 reports to the government including the recently released five-yearly Productivity Inquiry which was released in March containing 71 recommendations for reform.

Subject to approval from the Governor General, Mr Barrett will take up the role in September.

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