Jubilee Fellow – 2016

Francis Jarrett

Emeritus Professor Francis Jarrett

BScAgr (Sydney), PhD (Iowa), FASSA

Discipline: Economics

Year Elected: 1976

2016 Reflections

Born in Toowoomba Queensland, Frank is a fifth generation Australian with convict and free settler forebears on his father’s side.

His father, George, served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, where he was seriously wounded and his right leg was amputated, the result of being machine-gunned. Returning to Australia, George was secretary to the Wheat Board in Queensland. Shortly before the Depression, George opened a Ford Motor dealership in Coff’s Harbour, which proved to be financially disastrous. George then took up, with his brother-in-law, a dairy farm.

Frank remarked that “hand milking forty two cows, twice a day, has given me a great respect for dairy farmers.”  Dairying proved physically too demanding for George and he moved his family of six children (Frank was the oldest) to Queanbeyan to take up work in Canberra on the Census records. In 1936, the family moved to Paddington, in Sydney.

Frank studied at Christian Brothers’ College, Waverley, where he was a member of the school’s premiership winning rugby union team of 1940, and acclaimed by his fellow team members as “courageous in attack and useless in defence”.

At the University of Sydney, he was a proud “John’s” man. Frank graduated with a B. Sc. Agr. from the University of Sydney in 1945.

From 1945 to 1947, 2nd Lieutenant Frank Jarrett was a civil affairs officer in the Netherlands East Indies Government in Indonesia, mostly stationed in Balikpapan, where he worked on the eradication of malaria. One night, an Indonesian “Merdeka” fighter crawled into Frank’s tent and drew a knife. Frank told him “Get out, or I’ll shoot you” and the fellow ran away. This had an impact on Frank for over nearly two decades, as he would, once or twice a year, wake himself, his wife and his children up when we lived in Australia, with screams of “Who are you?” and the sounds of his bed side alarm clock hitting the opposite wall.

Frank then moved to the USA, where he was awarded a Ph. D. from Iowa State University in 1952. Frank was a Ph. D. student of Professor Earl O. Heady at Ames, whose work on the application of economic theory to agriculture had a revolutionary effect on agricultural policy formulation. Frank was to continue this work, on the economics of agriculture, for the rest of his academic life. He then moved to the University of Chicago. In 1955 he co-wrote, with Clifford Hildreth, A Statistical Study of Livestock Production and Marketing, which was published as a Cowles Commission monograph. This was the first study that applied simultaneous equations in an econometric analysis of agricultural production and price analysis.

He was the first appointee to the Economics faculty of Adelaide University with doctoral studies in agricultural economics. Frank began his career as a lecturer in the Economics Department under the leadership of Professor Peter Karmel in 1952, where he taught courses on agricultural organisation, agricultural policy, economic statistics and econometrics. Frank had a close working relationship with Peter, a man he greatly admired. Kym Anderson recounts the story that Frank was the first appointee to the University with a Ph. D. from an American Land Grant College, namely Iowa State. This caused some consternation. Some members of the University Council were so scathing of a Ph.D. from Iowa that they sought ways to have the doctorate not recognised. Their proposed solution was to declare that only Ph.D. degrees with a Latin language requirement should be recognised! The issue faded within a few months, and Frank went on to lecture from 1953 to 1988.

Frank was a close colleague of Eric Russell and they regularly played squash together. Frank was deeply affected by Eric’s untimely death, and considered Eric one of his closest friends. Frank also worked closely with Geoff Harcourt, Ron Hirst, Bob Wallace, Keith Hancock, Hugh Hudson, John Dillon, Maureen Brunt, and John Grant. Geoff Harcourt has said the group at the time was “a youthful and outstanding department.”

Geoff recounts “Frank and I were partners at battington, an adaptation of badminton by Bert Apps, who taught PE at Adelaide. Every day between 4 and 5, Frank, Bob Wallace, Jim Bennett and I would play battington; we could have been the equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters, we became so good at it.”

Frank was George Gollin Professor of Economics from 1968 – 88. His research interests covered quantitative agricultural economics and development economics, particularly the economics of production and of agricultural research. Frank was editor of the Australian Journal of Agricultural Economics from 1962 to 1964 and vice-president, Roseworthy Agricultural College Council from 1973 to 1980. He was a member of the CSIRO Wool Research Advisory Committee (Weickhardt Committee) in 1970.

Frank was also a member of the Aquinas College Council (Adelaide) and a member of the Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide’s finance committee, for many years. Frank was a Member of the University of Adelaide Council from 1978 to 1988.

Frank was very interested in agricultural economics, development economics, and the economics of technology adoption. In 1967 – 69, he was a member of the Harvard University Development Advisory Service, working in the Central Planning Commission, Pakistan. It was in Pakistan that he formed a close friendship with Hans Adler, a World Bank transport economist.

Kym Anderson remarks that “Frank thought the ASSA was mostly old people, so he didn’t engage earlier on!”

Frank is very proud of the fact that he and his sister Jacqueline Goodnow, (emeritus professor of Psychology, UNSW) became Fellows of the Academy of the Social Sciences in the same year (1976).

Frank had a long and deep association with the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society. In 2001, Frank was awarded a Distinguished Fellowship by the Society.

Frank loved to teach and inspired many students who became prominent members of the agricultural economics and mainstream economics professions

Frank is best known for his work on rural policy as a member of the Baulderstone Committee. The committee in 1982 produced a report Agricultural Policy: Issues and Options for the 1980’s with the themes of market orientation and deregulation and also support for “directly offsetting the effects of protection on farmers’ incomes”.

A subsequent paper entitled “The Baulderstone Papers” which Frank presented to the Australian Rural Adjustment Unit Conferences in 1983, was widely acclaimed.

In the 1980’s, Frank co-wrote The Economics of Bushfires: The Southern Australian Experience, with Derek Healey and Innovation in Papua New Guinea Agriculture (1985) and collaborated with Kym Anderson on Growth, structural change and economic policy in Papua New Guinea – Implications for Agriculture  (1989). He also wrote Educating Overseas Students in Australia – Who Benefits?, with Geoff Harris and The Evolution of Australia’s Aid Program.

Written by Michael Jarrett (son) with contributions from John Hatch, Geoff Harcourt and Kym Anderson.