Last week’s Estimates hearings brought out again the tendency of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics to base its modelling on implausibly optimistic scenarios reflecting a business-as-usual approach that ignores such inconveniences as climate change, peak oil and resistance to GM crops.

ABARE’s rigid adherence to this approach emerged strongly during the long reign of Dr Brian Fisher. Fisher headed ABARE for 18 years until he departed for the private sector in 2006. A former head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Sydney, Fisher is said to be a hardline free marketeer with a strong objection to market intervention or attempts to remedy market failure. While Fisher had been undertaking climate change modelling in the last days of the Keating Government, it was under John Howard that he found his public service calling as a willing assistant in that Government’s campaign to resist and delay carbon abatement measures.