Sinclair Davidson

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Sinclair Davidson. Photo: Bob Burton

Sinclair Davidson is the Professor in the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs, a corporate funded think tank based in Melbourne.[1]


A biographical note states that "he has written extensively on taxation policy in Australia and is a regular contributor to public debate. His opinion pieces have been published in The Age, The Australian, Australian Financial Review, Sydney Morning Herald, and Wall Street Journal Asia. Sinclair has also published in academic journals such as the European Journal of Political Economy, Review of Political Economy, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization and the Cato Journal."[1]


Fairtrade coffee complaint

In April 2007 Davidson and Tim Wilson, a research fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs, lodged a complaint to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that Oxfam's support of fair trade coffee amounts to a breach of the Trade Practices Act provisions against misleading and deceptive conduct. In a letter to the Chairman of the ACCC, Wilson wrote that "Oxfam says the Fairtrade coffee allows growers in developing countries to sell coffee 'at a decent price' but we don't accept that the Fairtrade system can work ... Our primary complaint is that this is an unsustainable system. The only sustainable mechanism is through free trade. They are artificially cooking up the international coffee trade, to promote the interests of the Fairtrade brand and the people who sign up to it." Oxfam rejected the claim, stating that "It's all audited and monitored, from beginning to end, and we've got no doubts about the effectiveness."[2]

The ACCC rejected Wilson and Davidson's complaint stating that it was based on evidence "may be subject to different interpretations."[3]

On global warming

In May 2007 Davidson and Dr Alex Robson, a lecturer in economics at the Australian National University, challenged the view that the assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was sufficient to decide there was a need to make substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Claiming that there was a "lack of knowledge and understanding of climate change, it is not unreasonable for policy-makers to adopt a cautious approach to policy change. It is also not unreasonable for people to discount the hysterical commentary around climate change," they wrote. [4]

Report for Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry stirs controversy

In November 2008 the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the peak employer lobby group, released a 16-page consultancy report undertaken by Sinclair Davidson and Julie Novak, a Research Fellow at the IPA. In it Davidson and Novak argued that:[5]

"Despite the much vaunted objectives of the current government to fashion a ‘New Tasmania’, the reality is that Tasmania also could

easily become a mendicant state. Indeed some might argue that it has done so already. Tasmania is highly dependent on mainland Australia for financial assistance. This paper sets out the basis for this view and recommends that the Tasmanian community commences a wide ranging debate about the future Tasmanians want to have for themselves."

Sinclair and Novak's report argued that land tax was a candidate for "reform", criticised the rate of growth in the Tasmanian public service, the level of welfare payments, questioned the performance of the Tasmanian hospitals and education system and reliance on GST revenue.[5]

Davidson and Novak's report was dismissed by as "a very poor quality report" by Saul Eslake, the then chief economist with the ANZ Bank. Eslake argued that the report was "based on very few facts and many of the things that are presented as facts are simply wrong", that it would provide ammunition to other states seeking to reduce federal government allocations to Tasmania. Eslake argued that if the federal government did cut grants to Tasmanian TCCI members would end up paying more in taxes. Most tellingly however, he argued that "despite pleading for reforms that would put Tasmania on a higher plane, they make absolutely no suggestions at all as to what those reforms ought to be."[6]

Eslake stated:[6]

"But what these authors completely ignore is that in many important respects that degree of dependence on social security and on federal support is actually lessening rather than deteriorating. It's as if they had completely ignored anything that had happened in Tasmania over the last decade or so for example, the fact that contrary to the assertion in the report Tasmanian household incomes... Tasmania's income per head has risen from about 78 per cent of the mainland average at the beginning of this decade to 85 per cent of the mainland average in 2006-07. It's as if they hadn't noticed that Tasmania's unemployment rate is for the first time in 30 years below the national average. It's as if they hadn't noticed that over the last six years Tasmania's per capita economic growth rate has been exceeded among the States and Territories only by Western Australia."

Consulting for the Minerals Council of Australia

Since mid-2011 Davidson has written or co-authored four reports for the Minerals Council of Australia - three of which have been defending the beleaguered coal industry.

In July 2011 Davidson and Ashton de Silva co-authored Costing of The Greens’ Economic Policies: Mining, a report for the Minerals Council of Australia, the peak mining industry lobby group, criticising the Australian Greens policy of a phase out of the coal industry in Australia.[7]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Sinclair Davidson", Institute of Public Affairs website, accessed June 2014.
  2. Caroline Overington, "Oxfam coffee 'harms' poor farmers", The Australian, April 28, 2007.
  3. Mario Xuereb, "Not free, but fair: Oxfam cleared of coffee chicanery", The Age,June 28, 2007.
  4. Sinclair Davidson and Alex Robson, "Hypothetical hysterics at 90 per cent", Geelong Advertiser, May 1, 2007.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Sinclair Davidson and Julie Novak, Tasmania - An Imperative for Reform, Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, October 2009.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Airlie Ward, "Interview with Saul Eslake", Stateline, ABC TV, October 31, 2010.
  7. Sinclair Davidson and Ashton de Silva, Costing of The Greens’ Economic Policies: Mining, Minerals Council of Australia, July 2011.

External resources

Archives of Davidson's articles

Davidson's reports for the Minerals Council of Australia

Davidson's report for the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Davidson's other articles and reports on coal, climate, global warming and tobacco

External articles

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