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Australia’s Own Champion of Public Choice: An Appreciation of the Life and Work of Geoffrey Brennan

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Mannkal Economic Education Foundation
On the Fourth of July, The University of Notre Dame Australia hosted the Freedom to Choose Conference: Australia’s Champion of Public Choice: An Appreciation of the Life and Works of Geoffrey Brennan.
The 13th Annual Freedom To Choose Conference this year celebrated the life of Geoffrey Brennan (1944-2022). One of Australia’s leading intellectuals and academics, Brennan collaborated extensively with Nobel laureate James M. Buchanan.
Brennan’s own contributions to Public Choice Theory include considerable analysis towards the behaviour of economic agents, investigating morals, norms and of all things voting behaviour.
The following speakers joined us in celebrating this event:

Jeff Bennett, Australian National University
Emeritus Professor Bennett has extensive experience in researching, consulting and teaching in the fields of Environmental Economics, Natural Resource Economics, Agricultural Economics and Applied Micro-Economics. Jeff is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and a Distinguished Fellow of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society. He is a member of the NSW Government’s Biodiversity Conservation Advisory Panel and the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand Social and Economic Advisory Group. Jeff is also a member of the Academic Advisory Council of the Centre for Independent Studies and has served as a member of the Board of the Mont Pelerin Society. 

Michael Brennan, Productivity Commission
Michael Brennan commenced a 5 year term as Chair of the Productivity Commission in September 2018. Previously Michael was Deputy Secretary, Fiscal Group, in the Federal Treasury with responsibility for budget policy, retirement incomes, Commonwealth-State relations, social policy and infrastructure financing. Before that he was Deputy Secretary, Economic in the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance. Michael has worked as an Associate Director in the economics and policy practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and as a senior adviser to Treasurers and Ministers for Finance at the State and Federal level. Michael holds a Bachelor of Economics (Hons) from the ANU. Michael is currently working on the Closing the Gap Review study.

William Coleman, The University of Notre Dame Australia
Dr William Coleman (BEc Hons Syd: PhD LSE) is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Notre Dame Australia and was formerly a Reader at the School of Economics of the Australian National University. Dr Coleman has written upon the history of economic thought, the contested position of economics in society, and Australian political history. He co-authored Giblin’s Platoon: The Trials and Triumph of the Economist in Australian Public Life; Economics and Its Enemies; The Causes, Costs and Compensations of Inflation and The Political Economy of Wages and Unemployment. He edited Only in Australia: The History, Politics and Economics of Australian Exceptionalism. William’s most recent publication is Their Fiery Cross of Union: A Retelling of the Creation of the Australian Federation, 1889-1914.

Michael McLure, The University of Western Australia
Michael McLure is a Professor in the Economics Department of the University of Western Australia. His research focuses on the history of economic thought, particularly Vilfredo Pareto and the Lausanne School and A. C. Pigou and the Cambridge School. Professor McLure authored The Paretian School and Italian Fiscal Sociology (2007, Palgrave Macmillan) and was a co-editor of the English translation of Pareto’s Manual of Political Economy: A Variorum Translation and Critical Edition (2014, Oxford University Press). He was also a co-editor of the History of Economics Review from 2007 to 2011. In 2020, Michael was awarded the Premio Galileo Galilei by the Fondazione Premio Internazionale Galileo Galilei dei Rotary Club Italiani for his contribution to the history of Italian economics. In 2021, he was presented with the Austin Holmes Award from the WA Branch of the Economic Society of Australia for his contribution to economics in Western Australia.

Lachlan Umbers, The University of Western Australia
Lachlan Umbers is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and Co-Ordinator of the Bachelor of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Western Australia. He works primarily in moral and political theory, with a particular focus upon democracy and climate justice. His work has been published in journals such as the British Journal of Political Science, Perspectives on Politics, Philosophical Studies, Political Studies, and the European Journal of Political Theory. With Jeremy Moss he is the co-editor of Climate Justice and Non-State Actors (Routledge, 2020), and the co-author of Climate Justice Beyond The State (Routledge, 2021). 

Chris White, The Retired Actuary and Ethics Lecturer
Chris White (BTheol UD, MA KCL, PhD ANU, FIAA) is an actuary and worked for the global human resources and actuarial firm Towers Perrin (which is now part of Willis Towers Watson), and the Australian predecessor firm (1967-98). He specialised in advice on major employer-sponsored superannuation, institutional investment, and increasingly as a manager of the firm. He was TP’s Managing Director Australia and South East Asia (1992-94), and his final role with TP was Managing Director UK and Regional Manager Europe (1994–98). He also served as a member of TP’s worldwide board of directors from 1992–95. Since 1999 Chris has studied and taught ethics in a range of contexts, and was Geoff Brennan’s last doctoral student, graduating in 2016. He is currently independent board chair of a small industry superannuation fund.

Photos by Jake McCoull

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