A history of CEDA


A proven track record, delivering on the issues that matter for over 50 years.

Formed in 1960 by one of Australia's most foremost economists, Sir Douglas Copland, CEDA's purpose was to harness the ideas and influence of leading thinkers from business, government, community and academia. From the start, CEDA was also independent and not restricted by vested interests or political persuasion.

Its purpose remains unchanged. Today CEDA continues to deliver leading thinking, informed discourse and rigorous research to influence good public policy for Australia's economic and social development.

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 monetary system. Today the CED is part of CEDA's international network of counterparts.

Since its inception, CEDA has produced more than 3000 publications, research reports and articles, highlighting emerging issues and directions in a diverse range of policy areas such as taxation, energy, industrial relations and healthcare.

In addition to research, the CEDA platform has been the choice for leading speakers from business, politics, government and academia. Prime Ministers including Bob Hawke, Malcolm Fraser, Julia Gillard and John Howard have all addressed CEDA events.

To celebrate CEDA's 50th anniversary in 2010, CEDA produced the book, CEDA: Celebrating 50 Years, which provides a unique portrait of the people and ideas that have shaped independent public policy in Australia.

CEDA's leaders

Sir Douglas Copland is the best-known figure in CEDA's history but the organisation was shaped by a series of leaders.

Peter Grey was the chief executive for 30 years and was moving force in CEDA. Joining CEDA as director of research in the late 1960s, he led the organisation through the 1970s and 1980s, and into the 1990s.

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 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 1995.

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.

CEDA's research directors have included Professor Neil Warren, now of the University of New South Wales, from 1988 to 1990. Professor Neville Norman, now of the University of Melbourne, was Economic Advisor 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 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 within 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 the 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 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and became a feature of Howard Government tax policy through 2007.


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.

Indigenous issues

Aborigines and the Mining Industry, published in 1984, was influential in arguing for increased government expenditure to overcome problems in remote aboriginal communities.

Industrial relations

CEDA's contribution to debate on wages and industrial relations has been substantial. Wages and Productivity was released in 1967, and in the 1980s, CEDA surveyed more than 200 business leaders about the arbitration system to support the Niland-Turner report.

CEDA was formed as a national, not-for-profit economic research organisation, funded by private members and corporate subscriptions.