Economics thirty Years of Economics: uwa and the wa branch of the Economic Society from 1963 to 1992



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3 Economics at UWA: 1978-1992

By 1978, ‘economic history’ and ‘applied economics’ were supported by current professorial appointments: Reginald Appleyard and Roger Bowden respectively. Provision had been made for a professor of economics and a professor of Japanese studies, but these positions were vacant and remained vacant until 1981 in the case of economics, when the 31 year old Kenneth Clements (PhD Chic.) was appointed, and 1984 in the case of Japanese studies, when Takashi Takayama was appointed. Robin Ghosh was also appointed head of the economics department in 1981. The industrial relations stream was developed and taught under the leadership of Associate Professor Des Oxnam, supported by Ruth Johnston and Nicolas Blain, but Oxnam retired in 1979 and was succeeded by Charles Mulvey (MA Aberd.), who was appointed to UWA in 1982 as professor of industrial relations. However, within two years Mulvey had taken the industrial relations program out of the Economics Department and formed a new department, still within the Faculty of Economics and Commerce, which was dedicated to industrial relations.15


Consequently, by 1984 the economics program was under Robin Ghosh’s direction and organised around four loose streams, each associated with a professor: economic history (Appleyard), economics (Clements), applied economics (Bowden), and Japanese Studies (Takayama).16 The places of Appleyard, as professor of economic history, and Takayama, as professor of Japanese studies, have already been briefly reviewed, so it is also appropriate to briefly reflect on Bowden, as professor of applied economics between 1976 and 1988, and Clements, as professor of economics from 1981 until the end of the period covered by this paper.17
Darrell Turkington has suggested that Bowden was one of the best economics appointments at UWA during the period of his tenure. In support of this, he pointed out that The Econometrics of Disequilibrium (Bowden 1978) and Instrumental Variables (Bowden and Turkington 1984) were influential studies: both are cited in the literature, with the study on instrumental variables becoming something of a standard reference in applied studies. Moreover, while at UWA, Bowden published in leading international journals such as the Journal of Econometrics, the Manchester School, the Journal of Monetary Economics and the Journal of the American Statistical Association.
Kenneth Clements’s appointment, made when Appleyard was head, was also very important. Immediately prior to joining UWA, Clements was a research economist at the Reserve Bank of Australia (1979-81) and, prior to that, an assistant professor of economics at Chicago University and had published on trade issues (1980). His subsequent research benefited from the contacts that he made with eminent scholars from Chicago, publishing jointly with Henri Theil and, after his arrival at UWA, working with Larry Sjaastad, his research supervisor at Chicago, to prepare a monograph on How Protection Taxes Exports (Clements and Sjaarstad 1984). Importantly, Clements also arranged for Sjaastad to come to UWA as a visiting scholar on many occasions. The link to Theil was also maintained, not just through the publication of Applied Demand Analysis: Results from System-Wide Approaches (Clements and Theil 1987) but with Theil also visiting UWA. Clements typically characterises his research interests as ‘general’ economics, which may be supported by his broad range of published research, but consumer analysis and international economics are at the heart of much of his research program.
Notwithstanding the success of Appleyard, Bowden and Clements as individual scholars, the concerns that Vickers had raised over the lack of agreement on a united direction within the economics program continued into the early 1980s and later. Disagreement on academic matters continued to bubble under the surface of the normal routine of the program, even spilling over to the Faculty into the University’s Academic Board18 and culminated in a review of the UWA economics department by John Ross and Geoff Shellam (Treloar 1988, p. 271), which also drew on independent and confidential reports by external academic economists Fred Gruen and Alan Woodland.
The main concerns raised in the report of the Review have been discussed by David Treloar (1988). In relation to didactic matters, the primary concerns centres on the balance between ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ economics in the economics degree program. For the purposes of the Review, core economics was defined as microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics and quantitative economics, effectively covering units that fall within the jurisdiction of the head of department and the professors of economics and applied economics. Peripheral economics was defined as economic history, Middle Eastern studies and Japanese studies, effectively covering units under the jurisdiction of the head of department and the professors of economic history and Japanese studies. The Report recommended an increased emphasis on ‘core’ economics, especially econometrics, and a decreased emphasis on ‘peripheral economics’, especially Japanese studies. The report was also critical of the research output of staff, pointing to an attitude of complacency within the department. A disturbing loss of good staff was also reported (citing the loss of Petridis to Murdoch University). Nevertheless, the Review did acknowledge the work of Bowden and Turkington on econometrics and Appleyard’s attempts to enhance research on migration and development was also recognised. However it was Clements who was singled out for praise, citing his approach to promoting research in applied and quantitative economics. Robin Ghosh was also complemented for having done a commendable job as head of department in difficult circumstances. While the findings of the Review may be subject to some criticism, on its two fundamental points – the balance of the program and the role of Clements in fostering research in core economics – the findings of the Review were clearly sound. These two fundamental points are considered in turn below.
First, the range of units offered in the economics degree program was unbalanced. Economic history is, of course, a scholarly pursuit and in my view is a necessary element of a quality economics program. However, in the 1980s the stream had grown, with development and Middle East economies also being added. However, the 17 units from this stream offered in 1987 were excessive and unsustainable19 and the axe was set to fall on several units. As Treloar has recorded:
By 1987 the almost utter absence of research publications regarding USSR, USA, British and Asian economic history creates doubt that[,] in the consolidation of the Department’s efforts in line with the recommendations of the Review[,] these diverse strands of teaching will justify retention.” (Treloar 1988, p. 276.) 20
This is not an open-ended criticism of the quality of teaching - many of the lecturers in charge of units in the economics program were actually very good teachers.21 The problem with the imbalance is the significant misallocation of resources within the economics department. However, this imbalance was subsequently redressed: the exaggerated prominence of units from the economic history stream diminished and the economics program was made more sustainable and consistent with developments outside Western Australia. The Centre for Migration and Development was also established in January 1987 to more directly support the research of Appleyard and vanden Driesen (migration and demography) and Ghosh and Gabbay (development studies), who wrote or edited books for this centre on themes like: the impact of migration on Australia’s socioeconomic development and change in developing economies, with special reference to Indian Ocean islands (Appleyard and Ghosh 1988); small island economies generally (Gabbay, Ghosh and Siddique 1996) and the Seychelles in particular (Gabbay and Ghosh 1992). This centre was also successful in attracting research funding from AusAID and the National Centre for Development Studies. Furthermore, Gabbay and Ghosh continued their supervising of graduate students,22 with Abu Siddique, Director of the Centre from 1995, completing his PhD at UWA in 1987 under the supervision of Ghosh.
Second, the emergence of an emphasis on core economic research continued to grow in subsequent years. This was partly achieved through improved recruiting of research active staff at UWA, such as E. Juerg Weber (PhD Rochester) and MoonJoong Tcha (PhD Chicago). PhD and MEc students tended to carry out their research through the Economic Research Centre and work towards the publication of research in peer reviewed journals, which helped to develop a more journal directed approach to research activity by staff within the department and a stronger research culture among graduate students. For example, between 1987 and 1990, Clements supervised three Master of Economics students undertaking their degrees by thesis23 and three PhD students: Saroja Selvanathan at UWA and Antony Selvanathan (at Murdoch), who each undertook applied studies of consumer demand and are currently professors at Griffiths University, and Meher Manzur, who studied exchange rate economics and is currently an associate professor at Curtin University.
Research was further fostered at UWA by better integrating postgraduate research at UWA with similar level economic research undertaken elsewhere in Australia. In 1987, the year of the department’s Review, the Economic Research Centre hosted the inaugural “PhD Conference in Economics and Business”.24 This conference was organised by Clements to briefly congregate some of the best research students in Australia at UWA and provide them with: the opportunity to present their research to peers and professors; detailed feedback from a prominent academic discussant; and exposure to serious scholarly debate on their research. The first three PhD Conferences, held in 1987, 1988 and 1989 we all convened by the Economic Research Centre. By 1991, when the fourth conference was held, it was co-convened by the UWA’s Economic Research Centre and the Australian National University’s Centre for Economic Policy Research, with the active support of Robert Gregory. From 1992 to this day, the conference has been held annually, convened alternately at UWA and the ANU, and has become Australia’s premier event for PhD training of economists. Importantly for UWA, the conference became a frequent and regular forum in which its students could present their research and have it critically appraised and provide the opportunity place for potential research students to directly observe what they would need to do to become a PhD researcher. The outcome was entirely positive for economic research: nationally, in WA and at UWA.
Finally, new research active economists were appointed directly to the economics department in the final years of the period of this study. After spending 1987 to 1989 at UWA, Paul Miller (PhD ANU) returned to the economics program in 1991 as an associate professor. As a result of his studies in labour economics and his active contribution to the design of the economics program in the period following the department’s Review,25 Miller rose to the office of professor of economics by the mid-1990s and subsequently went on to head the department (where he exhibited his capacity to balance onerous administrative responsibilities with an extensive and productive research program). Michael McAleer (PhD Queens) was another prominent research active scholar to take up an appointment in 1991. While having no aptitude for, or interest in, academic administration, McAleer proved himself to be a prolific researcher. Like Clements and Miller, he was also active in research supervision. Darrell Turkington has indicated that, in addition to undertaking his own research, he saw his role as providing the mathematical and econometric grounding to students so that those with very strong quantitative skills could undertake postgraduate research under McAleer’s supervision.26

4 Some Graduates and Other Miscellaneous Matters

As noted earlier, the main focus of this paper has been directed towards the role that professors played in guiding economics at UWA. Perhaps this approach gives too much prominence to the department’s ‘growing pains’ and under-emphasises the contribution of the many staff and students who kept the ‘show in the road’. My purpose has been to advance the proposition that even when these growing pains are identified and explicitly acknowledged, the economics department at UWA was still a success: the general direction set by the early 1990s was correct. 27 When attention is directed away from these professors and growing pains and towards graduates and the senior staff who supported the program without having prime responsibility for leading the program, the basically positive propositions underlying this paper are reinforced.
This thesis receives broad support from Reginald Appleyard’s (forthcoming) review of the faculties of Business and Law, prepared for inclusion in a volume to celebrate UWA’s centenary, which provides an overview of graduates from these faculties who have subsequently been successfully working in public administration or the commercial world. In view of this, there is no need for a detailed review of prominent economic alumni from UWA in this paper. Nevertheless, some insight is gained from a brief reflection on some of the economics theses (honours, masters or PhD) that were supervised at UWA in the 30 years from 1963, supported by a few brief observations on the subsequent careers of their authors.28 From the 1960s, there were a number of theses prepared by scholars of subsequent note, including: The development of the official short-term money market in Australia, by Frank Harman, with Harman going on to become a prominent Western Australian economist, both in academia (at Murdoch University) and in public service (as chair of various state government enquiries into energy policy and governance); and Depression and recovery in Western Australia, 1928/29 - 1938/39: a study in economic change, a masters dissertation by Graeme Snooks that was subsequently published as a book (Snooks 1974). In purely academic terms, Snooks is perhaps the most distinguished graduate from UWA’s economics program from the period under consideration: he is an authority in many aspects of economic history, global transitions and went on to have a successful career as an academic at Flinders and the ANU. During the 1980s, several subsequent economists of note submitted theses. In 1981 Colin Barnett, the current Premier of Western Australia, submitted his thesis on A hedonic price model of consumer demand for urban residential land and the current Dean of the UWA Business School, Tracey Horton, presented her honours dissertation on Exchange rate determination for examination in 1985.
As a former UWA post-graduate coursework student (in 1986 and 1987) I am in a position to provide some anecdotal support for the basically positive thesis of this paper. In addition to those I have already mentioned, I have very favourable recollections of the teaching of John Jackson and Philip Grossman. My colleagues of the time at the WA Treasury undertaking the same degree also talked highly of teachers from courses that I did not take, especially Paul McLeod for his resource economics unit and for his supervision. Of course, such anecdotal feedback has not been uncritical, but it nevertheless reveals a consistent and positive bias.
I would like to conclude this section with the words of Wilfred Dowsett, who taught mathematical economics while serving as a senior lecturer in economics at UWA from 1951 to 1970. He was not active in research, with his main publications being a text book on Elementary Mathematics in Economics (1959) and ‘Poverty in Australia’ (1968). But his career path took him towards administration, becoming Dean of Faculty between 1967 and 1968 when the university was undergoing a student ‘population boom’. In his post retirement letter to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Clews, dated 11 March 1971, Dowsett commented in a melancholy manner that:
now my feelings are sharply mixed. My term as Dean followed by sickness meant a year or so of fatigue at the end of which I am only now emerging into a period of regret for unfinished work. Perhaps as time passes, I shall find the regrets exceeding the relief.” (Wilfred Dowsett s/185 folio 137)
Although a digression from the primary theme of this paper, the above words have been reported because I found them moving: I will certainly reflect on them as I strive to balance the relative demands of research and administration in a way that enhances job satisfaction.

5 UWA and the WA Branch of the Economic Society of Australia

At the start of the first decade of this study, UWA was heavily involved with the WA Branch of the Economic Society. Professor Bowen was Branch President and two other senior members of staff (Alexander Kerr and Neil Laing) were committee members. The story is much the same during the rest of the 1960s, a time when UWA was the only university, or tertiary institution, where an education in economics could be obtained. Consequently, significant involvement by UWA staff was to be expected and the committee members from industry on the WA Branch of the Society were generally trained at UWA. For example, Les McCarrey was a UWA graduate working at the WA Treasury (eventually as the Under Treasurer), J.E. Dolin had submitted his thesis on the timber industry for examination at UWA in 1967, Christopher Vargovic had been mentored by Alexander Kerr at UWA during the 1950s and worked as an economics research officer at the WA Employers’ Federation, and Norman Dufty worked on labour economics as a postgraduate student in the late 1950s and early 1960s, before taking a PhD at UWA on the organisation of technically oriented education (and later becoming the Dean of Social Sciences at the Western Australian Institute of Technology).
The tradition whereby the UWA Department of Economics and the WA Branch of the Society sponsored the Shann memorial lecture was also continued during the entire period of this review, with H. C. ‘Nugget’ Coombs presenting the 1963 lecture on ‘some ingredients for growth’ In the 30 years that followed the ‘Shann’ was presented by many learned and distinguished scholars and practitioners, with Reginald Appleyard often exploiting his contacts with the Australian National University to ensure high quality presenters. Examples of Shann lectures include: John Hicks’s 1967 lecture on ‘monetary theory and policy’; John Crawford’s 1968 lecture on ‘the development of trade policy’; Keith Hancock’s 1974 lecture on ‘economists ecologists and historians’; Geoff Harcourt’s 1975 lecture on ‘theoretical controversy and social significance’, Peter Groenewegen’s 1983 lecture on ‘rationalising Australian taxation revisited’; Fred Gruen’s 1985 lecture on the question ‘how badly is the Australian economy performing and why?’; Noel Butlin’s 1989 lecture on ‘the great Australian take-over bid’; and Graeme Snooks’s 1993 lecture on the question ‘does the long-run in economics matter?’.29
The enthusiasm for the Shann memorial lecture among staff from UWA and members of the Economic Society did not wane over the thirty years covered in this study. In the case of both institutions, the ‘Shann’ was the premier vehicle for engaging with the broad public on economic matters. UWA also holds the Bateman Lecture, which is a smaller infrequent lecture intended for specialists in the commercial disciplines and which is sometimes presented by prominent overseas economists,30 and the Economic Society convenes presentations by visiting economists, especially economists from the Reserve Bank of Australia. But the ‘Shann’ remains the public face of economics in Western Australia for both UWA and the Economic Society.
However, UWA’s prominent position within the WA Branch of the Economic Society progressively diminished as its monopoly on tertiary level education in economics was challenged by competition from programs with economic content associated with the emergence of ‘new’ institutions: the Western Australian Institute of Technology (WAIT) opened to students in 1968 with its direct successor, Curtin University of Technology, commencing operations in 1987; Murdoch University opened to students in 1975. Towards the end of the period under review, the WA College of Advance Education acquired university status as Edith Cowen University in 1991 and the University of Notre Dame Australia, the State’s first private university, opened to students in 1992.
In the 1960s, the President of the WA Branch of the Society was always from UWA: Ian Bowen (1963-1964), Alexander Kerr (1965-1969). Subsequent to that, a UWA member of the Society was WA Branch President on just one occasion: Reginald Appleyard in 1973. From the 1970s to mid-1980s, presidents tended to be drawn from public service, such as Ron Ewing (Commissioner of State Taxation) in 1974 and 1975, or industry, such as Terence Hogan (from the stock brokers Patersons and later director of the Perth Stock Exchange) in 1979 and 1980, Jeannie M Lyall in 1981 (Perth Chamber of Commerce) and Gregory Hancock (R. M. Black and Associates) between 1982 and 1984. Over that time, UWA’s involvement in the WA Branch of the Society diminished significantly.31 However, the main change in the composition of the Society’s WA Branch Committee occurred with the shift in the ‘academic’ centre of gravity, with WAIT becoming a dominant influence on the committee, starting with Norm Dufty’s presidency for the period 1976-1978 but most significantly from the mid-1980s during Margaret Nowak’s presidency in the period 1985‑1987, and then Curtin and Murdoch University becoming more influential with Peter Kenyon’s presidency in 1988-1991. The office bearers for the WA Branch of the Economic Society are reported more fully in Appendix 4.
By the late 1970s professors and heads of department from UWA’s economics program did not seek administrative posts on the WA Branch of the Economic Society32 and members of the newer universities filled that vacuum. Consequently, when the WA Branch acted decisively to engage with members of the Society from other states by organising the Australian Conference of Economists, the conferences were convened in August 1984 at WAIT, with WAIT’s Margaret Nowak organising the event, and in September 1993 with Murdoch University. It should also be acknowledged that, from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, the WA College of Advanced education / Edith Cowan University played a role, with Tom Draber working as Treasurer for an extended period.
It is therefore not surprising that when the WA Branch presented its inaugural Austin Holmes Award,33 an award made in recognition of outstanding contributions to economics in this State, it was not made to a UWA economist. Rather, it was presented to Norman Dufty, from Curtin University, in 1968. The award was presented again in the following year to Donald Frearson, the inaugural Head of Economics at WAIT. However, The Austin Holmes Award was presented to Reginald Appleyard in 1992: the last UWA professor to preside over the WA Branch of the Economic Society.

6 Conclusion: The Wild West or the Progressive West?

In 1963 two proposals were approved for the UWA economics program: the introduction of a unit in monetary economics and a plan for enhancing the role of economic history. Given the conditions that prevailed, these were sound decisions. Monetary economics is an essential component of a quality economics program and the unit has endured to this day. Economic history is also a very desirable feature of an economics program. Once the plan was implemented – with a professor of economic history appointed and an economic history unit offered in each of the three undergraduate years plus the honours year, the deficiency in the program had been corrected.
However, from the 1970s and into the 1980s, the economic program overcorrected by introducing too many units from within the economic history stream. While many economic history teachers were active in research and in teaching core economics units34, or were training as researchers in economic history and were to become active later, this was not the case for all staff. Moreover, a complacency in regard to the importance of research in academic life extended across areas of core economic enquiry, with some problems evident by the time of Douglas Vickers’s arrival at UWA in the early 1970s. However, in the mid-1970s, successful steps were taken to enhance research, such as through the appointment of a Roger Bowden as professor of applied economics. By the early 1980s, the appointment of Kenneth Clements as professor of economics further enhanced the research orientation of the economics department. Notwithstanding this progress, the department was still somewhat fragmented in the mid-1980s, with each professor working more or less independently of the other.
The real turnaround in the department’s fortunes came between the late 1980s and the early 1990s and can be attributed to a number of factors, including: the establishment of the Economic Research Centre, which contributed to research training while attracting strong research oriented economists to UWA who publish in high quality peer reviewed journals; the Review of the Economics Department, which led to the introduction of a more balanced teaching program; and the institution of the PhD Conference, which exposed WA post graduate researchers to the research of post graduates from outside the State.
The thirty years of economics at UWA represents a successful progression that culminated in an improvement in the direction and quality of the economics program. Over the same period, the activities of the WA Branch of the Economic Society were also a success, especially the Shann memorial lecture that the Society convened (and still convenes) jointly with UWA. With the emergence of new colleges of advanced education and later new universities, however, participation by senior UWA staff in the activities of the WA Branch of the Society diminished progressively and rapidly. From the mid-1970s the presidential leadership role within the Branch had shifted, primarily to WAIT / Curtin University and Murdoch University.

* Economics Program (M251), University of Western Australia, Business School, 35 Stirling Highway, WA 6009 AUSTRALIA. Prepared for the 22nd Conference of the History of Economic Thought Society of Australia (HETSA) at the University of Notre Dame Australia, 14-17 July 2009 Email: Michael.mclure@uwa.edu.au



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Appleyard, Reginald forthcoming Power and Influence of the Business and Law Faculties on the Administration and Governance of the State, and in the Private Sector, Draft Chapter for the 2011 University of Western Australia Centennial Publication.

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Appendix 1: UWA Economics - PhD Dissertations: 1963 to 1993

1973

Lourens, R. The Perth Building Society: A Study in Institutional Growth



1977

Adam, C. Decision Process in Monetary Policy

Hoang, D.N. World Food Projection Models and Short-run World Trade and Reserve Policy Evaluations

1978

Savery, L. Dissatisfied Labour Turnover and Managerial Styles



1980

Ameer Ali. Some Aspects of Religio-economic Precepts and Practices in Islam: A Case Study of the Muslim Community in Ceylon during the Period 1800-1915

Statham, P. The Economic Development of the Swan River Colony, 1829-1850

1982

Kehal, H.S. Structural Changes in the Punjab Economy with Special Reference to Agriculture



1983

Fernando, G.W. An Empirical Approach to Pricing Policy



1985

Yeboah, D. A Control Theory Approach to Analysis of Economic Policy for Ghana



1987

Siddique, A. Some Aspects of the Growth of the Tea Industry in Assam (1834-1940): A Critical Evaluation of Government Policy



1988

Inyang, B.J. Trade Unions in Nigeria: A study of the major trends in their development from early times to 1979

Sawers, K.M. Import Competition in Australian Manufacturing Industries

Selvanathan, S. A System-wide Analysis of International and Interregional Consumption Patterns



1990

Manzur, M. Essays in Exchange Rate Economics



1991

Kiripat, S. An Economic Analysis of the Growth of the Rubber Industry in Thailand (1970 - 1988)



1993

Chen, D. World Consumption Economics



Appendix 2: UWA Economics - Selection of Masters Dissertations: 1963 to 1993

1963

Faichampa, S Some Aspects of Financing Economic Development in Underdeveloped Countries



1965

Glynn, S The State and Primary Production: a Study of the Economic Development of the Western Australian Wheat Belt, 1900-1930



1966

Harman, F. The Development of the Official Short-term Money Market in Australia



1967

Dolin, J. E. The Timber Industry of Western Australia: a Study of Organisation and Competition



1968

Snooks, G. D. Depression and Recovery in Western Australia, 1928/29 - 1938/39: a Study in Economic Change



1969

Bonds, A. T. The Economics of Outer Harbour Development in the Port of Fremantle: 1955 to 1965



1971

Lalich, W. F. The Latin American Free-trade Association: an Analysis of its Formation



1972

Ho, K. N. A Problems of Optimisation in Electricity Generation



1973

McBeath, D.D. The Shop Steward and Industrial Relations: a Study of the Western Australian Metal Trades




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