7 September 2023

Grattan Institute CEO to be next Productivity Commission head

| Chris Johnson
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Danielle Wood set to become the first female chair of the Productivity Commission. Photo: Grattan Institute.

The Grattan Institute is on the lookout for a new boss now that its current chief executive officer, Danielle Wood, has been named the incoming chair of the Productivity Commission.

Ms Wood, 43, accepted the appointment this week, and while she will be the first woman to take up the role, she wasn’t the first one named to replace outgoing chair Michael Brennan.

Former political adviser Chris Barrett was named in July as the incoming chair but has since pulled out to take up a role with the Victorian Government.

In announcing Ms Wood’s appointment, Treasurer Jim Chalmers described her as an “outstanding economist who will bring exceptional public policy expertise” to the Productivity Commission.

“Her track record of leadership and innovative research at the Grattan Institute will greatly contribute to the PC’s mission,” the Treasurer said.

“Ms Wood will be the first woman to lead the Productivity Commission or any of its predecessor agencies that stretch back for more than a century.”

Ms Wood was previously principal economist and director of merger investigations at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, a senior economist at NERA Economic Consulting, and a senior research economist at the Productivity Commission.

She was the president of the Economic Society of Australia and is the co-founder of the Women in Economics Network.

Ms Wood will remain at the Grattan Institute until 10 November before starting a five-year term leading the Productivity Commission.

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Chair of the Grattan Institute board Lindsay Maxsted congratulated Ms Wood on her appointment.

“We are very disappointed to be losing Danielle, but the government has made a fine appointment,” Mr Maxsted said.

“Those involved in public policy in Australia know that Danielle is an exceptional economist, with an ability to break down a problem, pinpoint its causes, and then imagine and design practical solutions.

“Everyone at Grattan also knows Danielle as a thoughtful and welcoming colleague, a strategist and an inspiring leader. She leaves with the best wishes of all of us.”

Ms Wood said she was honoured to be offered the position of chair at the Productivity Commission, and she praised the staff she will be leaving at the Grattan Institute.

“They are stunningly bright, intellectually curious and driven to improve public policy in the public interest. Australia is lucky to have them, and I will miss them all,” she said.

Ms Wood has an honours degree in economics from Adelaide University and masters degrees in both economics and competition law from Melbourne University.

Dr Chalmers said her appointment follows a merit-based process involving interviews with two departmental secretaries and the APS Commissioner Gordon de Brouwer.

“Subject to the Governor-General’s approval, Ms Wood will take up her position as soon as possible. Until then, the standing acting arrangements will apply,” he said.

“In a rapidly changing global economy, the Productivity Commission is more important than ever in providing world-class advice on productivity as well as prosperity and progress more broadly.

“I look forward to working closely with Ms Wood on the Albanese Government’s agenda to renew, refocus and renovate this core economic institution.”

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In a recent speech to the National Press Club, the outgoing chair suggested future productivity gains would be best achieved with a fresh approach to risk-taking and a greater understanding of the value of quality.

“We need regulatory systems that look kindly on new business models; a tax system that promotes new-firm entry,” Mr Brennan said.

“We also need to think more about policies that could promote a healthy risk appetite among investors and would-be entrepreneurs.

“This brings us to the non-market sector – those services mainly funded and delivered by government, like health, education, community safety, child care, aged care and disability.

“Areas where we have settled on some very labour-intensive business models, and where innovation is not always encouraged, and diffusion of good ideas is not always easy.

“They are a big and growing share of the economy – too big to be exempt from potential productivity gains.”

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