3 October 2021
At this very sad time the Board of Australia21 wishes to acknowledge the significant contribution of Paul Barratt to Australia’s national policy landscape.
Australia21 was set up over twenty years ago by Prof Bob Douglas AO, Dr Jane Dixon (dec), Richard Eckersley AM and Paul Barratt AO to investigate the wicked problems that are rarely addressed by other public good think tanks; and in the last ten years Paul took on the role of Chair, keeping Australia21 focused on the policy issues that shape Australia’s future.
As a senior public servant: Deputy Secretary, Department of Trade, Secretary, Department of Primary Industries and Energy, and Secretary, Department of Defence, Paul bought a breadth of intellect to high-level discussions on major policy issues including, international trade, resources diplomacy, strategic defence interests, Chinese culture, and War Powers reform. He could speak knowledgeably, eloquently and at length on any of these challenging policy issues.
But it was his integrity and principled commitment which has always stood out in his concern for veterans suffering PTSD; or for those Australians experiencing inequality and marginalisation, Paul’s focus on fairness and equity never wavered.
At Australia21 we were all very aware of his generosity and commitment to making the world a better place. His contribution to public life covered many fields and his leadership of Australia21 was characterised by considerable intellect, broad knowledge of the arts and sciences and high-level executive experience in the public and private sectors, including as Executive Director, Business Council of Australia.
Above all, he was a man of integrity and his commitment to ethical and fair public policy was always front and centre in his life. Paul held governments to a high standard, and he was particularly concerned at the declining level of standards within Parliaments. He also believed that Australia needed to design policies that “Close the Gap” between the lives, livelihoods and expectations of the indigenous community and the rest of Australian society. In leading Australia21 he strongly endorsed knowledge-based approaches to policy development, and in his own words has stated that:
"Australia needs to construct its future on the basis that we are a society. To achieve anything that looks at all like the world we would like to see, will require us to make substantial changes to the current norms of public debate and public policy setting. In particular, the Australia of the future will need to restore science and other technical knowledge and skills to their proper place as the foundation of evidence-based public policy.
We will also need to restore to our Parliament the dignity and decorum that the place where our nation’s laws are made warrants. It must again become an institution in which serious matters are debated seriously by serious people and the views of non-Government MPs are heard and respected. And Parliament must again become a place in which no deliberate untruth is told.
Above all, if we do business in the future with more regard to empathy and compassion by taking mindful, rather than politically clever, actions we will all be better off. Achieving this crucial shift will require us deliberately to develop the mental training processes necessary to improve the social and emotional acumen to ‘see’ and take actions to alleviate the distress happening around us now, and to create a preferred future."
Paul’s contribution to public policy was outstanding and his strategic ideas and principled approach set a high standard from which Australia has truly benefitted. All associated with Australia21 over many years profoundly respected Paul, were proud to work with him and will miss him deeply.
We have lost a great Australian and good friend and as our tribute, the Board of Australia21 commits to continuing his substantial and influential legacy.