CEDA's founder: Sir Douglas Berry Copland



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CEDA owes its existence to one of the great figures in Australian economic policy and education, Sir Douglas Copland.

CEDA's founder, Sir Douglas Copland, was a leading figure in the development and growth of the economics profession in Australia.

Sir Douglas Copland stands as one of Australia's most remarkable public figures of the past 100 years. He led the creation of the famous Premiers' Plan - the document, admired by John Maynard Keynes among others, that set Australia's economic management during the Great Depression and made Copland a household name. 

The inspiration for CEDA

Copland's ambition for Australia led him to establish CEDA. He had previously shown his faith in an independent Australia in the 1930s, urging the Australian pound be separated from the British sterling. In the 1950s, he famously voiced the fear that Australia was "a milk bar economy" - an economy set on consumption at the expense of capital goods and productive inputs. CEDA began as his attempt to set out a different economic future.

A distinguished career

Copland was one of the founders of economics as a university discipline in Australia, setting up two Australian university economics faculties.

From 1917 to 1920, he lectured in history and economics at the University of Tasmania and became professor of economics until 1934.

In 1934, Copland became Sidney Myer Professor of Commerce and Dean of the faculty of Commerce at the University of Melbourne until 1944. From 1938 to 1945, he chaired the State Economic Committee for Victoria. At the same time, he was appointed Commonwealth Prices Commissioner from 1939 to 1945. He held the Chair of Economics at Melbourne from 1944 to 1945, before becoming Australian Minister to China. In 1948, he became the founding Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University.

He served several Australian governments, the United Nations and the world's peak labour organisation, and maintained a constant interest in business issues. One leading businessman dubbed him the "Keynes of the Commonwealth".

He was also Editor-in-Chief of Economic Record, the journal of the Economic Society of Australia and New Zealand, for 20 years. In 1961, he became the first Director-General of the International Institute for Labour Studies, a research body sponsored by the International Labour Organisation.

Dr Alex Millmow's paper, DB Copland and the Aftershocks of the Premiers' Plan 1931-1939, is available to download. Many thanks to Dr Millmow for making the paper available.

To celebrate its 50 years, and mark the re-establishment of the annual international Copland Memorial Address, CEDA published The Legacy of Sir Douglas Copland, Founder of CEDA. Download.