Fred Gruen

Yesterday in the Parliament I spoke on the great Australian economist Fred Gruen.

Fred Henry George Gruen was born in 1921 in Vienna, Austria. He came to Australia after the outbreak of World War II on the Dunera and was then classified as an enemy alien. But he went on to be one of the great Australian economists. Fred Gruen worked initially as a professor of agriculture economics at Monash and bought a farm in Melbourne. He said in the early years at Monash that he was ‘one lecture ahead of the students and one fence ahead of the cattle’. 

In 1971 he accepted a professorship at the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University, and was at the heart of economic policy advising for the Whitlam government, including on their 25 per cent tariff reduction. He continued to advise on economic policy right into the 1990s. It was my honour when I was at ANU to be the last head of the economics program in the Research School of Social Sciences.

In May it was my pleasure to be part of an event commemorating Fred's life and paying tribute to him with Bob Gregory, Bruce Chapman, Fred's sons Nicholas and David Gruen, Martin Parkinson, Ian Young and Shirley Leitch. Fred passed away in 1997, but his portrait, painted by Erwin Fabian, will now take pride of place at the ANU. He reminds us of the value of refugees and of economic advice in great policymaking.

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