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This is a new role for the ACCC, however the competition watchdog noted that many international competition authorities have a chief economist.
“The relationship between economics and law inherent in the Competition and Consumer Act is an important factor when the commission has to make decisions on what conduct is likely to harm competition, markets, and consumers,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
“The commission therefore relies heavily on legal and economic advice to inform, guide, and clarify our thinking about complex issues.
“The creation of the role of ACCC chief economist helps ensure sound economics continues to underpin ACCC decisions.”
The appointment of Mr Woodbridge raises the status of economics at the ACCC, Mr Sims said, with important implications for the perception as well as the reality of the commission’s decision-making.
“The chief economist will also help to communicate with business and to inform markets and consumers about the economic foundations of our decisions,” he said.
“The complexity of the issues we deal with on a daily basis requires input from the best minds to understand what really underlies the conduct we are assessing and its impact so we can make sound decisions in the interests of all Australians.”
Mr Woodbridge received his PhD in Economics from the University of California in 1991. His career began in academia at the ANU and then the University of Melbourne, where he taught economics and econometrics.
He has been working as a senior economic specialist with the ACCC for a number of years. After some time at the Industry (now Productivity) Commission and the ACCC, he spent six years working in the private sector with Frontier Economics and CommSec before rejoining the ACCC to concentrate on competition economics.
[Related: ACCC seeks credit reporting transparency]