CEDA celebrated 50 years in 2010
A history of CEDA
CEDA was formed in 1960 by Sir Douglas Copland, one of
Australia's foremost economists. Sir Douglas wanted to create a
national, independent body that could harness the ideas and
influence of the greatest minds in Australia's business, community
and academic worlds.
The concept for CEDA was based on US think tank the Committee
for Economic Development (CED). The CED was formed in 1942 to deal
with the problem of anticipated unemployment after World War II and
was influential in shaping the Marshall Plan and the post-war
CEDA was formed as a national, not-for-profit economic research
organisation, funded by private members and corporate
subscriptions. From the start, CEDA was objective and not
associated with any political or economic group. Its aims at its
inception remain its aims today - to bring together leaders from
the business, academic and community sectors to initiate
independent research on matters of national economic
Sir Douglas Copland is the best-known figure in CEDA's history
(read more about
Copland here), but the organisation has been shaped by a series
Peter Grey was for 30 years the chief executive and moving force
of CEDA. Joining CEDA as director of research in the late 1960s, he
led the organisation through the 1970s and 1980s and into the
1990s. He personified CEDA's mission of building bridges between
different parts of the community.
In a speech to mark CEDA's 25th anniversary, the then prime
minister, Bob Hawke, referred to "that quick mind, the generous
spirit and the fascinating character which is Peter ... Peter Grey
has done us all a great service in bringing together opinion
makers, businessmen, academics, journalists, trade unionists and
others in our community to debate the issues which have, and
continue to be, important to our nation." Peter Grey retired in
Professor John Nieuwenhuysen first served CEDA as research
director in the late 1980s before returning as chief executive in
1996. Professor Nieuwenhuysen dramatically expanded CEDA's joint
research efforts with Australian universities on topics such as tax
and industrial relations reform, bringing a new depth to CEDA's
research publications. He also restructured CEDA's sponsorships and
built large surpluses for the organisation that funded its
CEDA's research directors have included Professor John
Nieuwenhuysen in the late 1980s and Professor Neil Warren, now of
the University of Sydney, from 1988 to 1990. Professor Neville
Norman, now of the University of Melbourne, was Economic Advisor to
CEDA from 1975 to 1992.
Areas of interest
Over the years, CEDA has been influential in articulating and
advising on some of Australia's biggest challenges. Its focus has
always remained on how to encourage economic growth while
maintaining social and environmental balance.
Immigration and emigration
CEDA has been influential on immigration issues since Reg
Appleyard's 1963 research on low-cost housing for migrants.
CEDA's most influential research report, on the economic impact
of immigration, was issued in 1985. Part of a four-year project, it
was overseen by then CEDA economic adviser Dr Neville Norman and
researcher Katherine Meikle. It was carried out in conjunction with
the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, with the support
of Peter Grey.
The research initially won support in 1982 from the then
Immigration Minister, Ian Macphee. His Hawke Government ministerial
successor, Chris Hurford, embraced the report and won
implementation of a number of its key recommendations. Among these
was the creation of a Bureau of Immigration Research.
The most far-reaching of the report's recommendation to be
implemented by the Hawke Government, however, was the
implementation of a points system for skilled migration. Since its
adoption in Australia in the late 1980s, this system has
increasingly become a model for immigration regimes in other parts
of the developed world.
Skilled emigration has also been a key CEDA concern. A landmark
report in 2003 on "Australia's diaspora" changed the Australian
debate by pointing out that rather than enduring a "brain drain",
Australia experienced "brain circulation", with skilled Australians
moving overseas but then often returning to use their experience
with Australia's borders.
CEDA put infrastructure firmly on the national agenda with the
release of Growth 54: Infrastructure: Getting on with the Job in
2004. The report articulated powerful concerns from industry and
academia about the negative impact of failing infrastructure on
Australia's economic development.
As early as the 1960s, CEDA produced a series of studies on the
South-East Asian economies at a time when Australia was waking up
to the importance of engaging with Asia. This issue remains at the
forefront of CEDA's research agenda, with the publication in 2005
of Growth 55: China in Australia's Future, a major report outlining
the opportunities for Australia to engage with China.
CEDA vigorously supported the Mathews Committee's tax
recommendations in the mid-1970s. Its influence was felt in the
Fraser Government's introduction of a system of stock value
adjustments to help businesses cope with inflation, and in
government's 1976 introduction of tax indexation - although this
last reform was quickly abandoned.
More recently, CEDA's call to spur labour force participation
through tax cuts for low-income earners has been taken up by the
OECD and became a feature of Howard Government tax policy through
A landmark 2004 report, Growth 52: Water and the Australian
Economy, called for a new approach to water management in Australia
to ensure the future sustainability of this scarce resource.
Aborigines and the Mining Industry, published in 1984, was
influential in arguing for increased government expenditure to
overcome problems in remote aboriginal communities.
CEDA's contribution to debate on wages and IR has been
substantial. Wages and Productivity was released in 1967, and in
the 1980s CEDA surveyed more then 200 business leaders about the
arbitration system to support the Niland-Turner report.
Books about CEDA
CEDA's history and its contribution to Australia's economic
development have been documented in Problems and Progress (1986),
published on CEDA's 25th anniversary, and The Bridge (1991)
published on CEDA's 30th anniversary.