Professor Allan Fels AO has been appointed to Chair of the Public Interest Journalism Initiative (PIJI), the non-partisan not-for-profit that aims to aims to shape the policies and actions needed to support the future of public interest journalism in Australia.
PIJI has been established as a limited-life initiative (3-5 years) to conduct research, develop policy and promote public discussion to ensure “a sustainable, national ecosystem for independent public interest journalism”.
Professor Fels, who was Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for almost 10 years, is one of the country’s best-known regulators and economists. He was also the foundation Dean of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government from 2003 until 2013.
His expertise in public policy, economics, integrity and the law place him in an ideal position to lead PIJI’s work in research, policy development and industry innovation to address the decline facing public interest journalism in Australia.
“Public interest journalism is fundamental to an open society,” said Professor Fels. “Not only does it ensure a diversity of voices in public discussion, it is one of the most important mechanisms for accountable and democratic governments.”
“Without it we will see a decline in the quality of our most fundamental institutions – executive, judicial and legislative. We have already seen signs of this – more so in other countries than in Australia. We need to take action.”
Professor Fels has served on numerous government bodies and has led, or contributed to, inquiries across policy, economic and social issues such as executive pay, government integrity, parliamentary entitlements, privacy, the taxi industry, insurance company pricing and health evaluation programs.
He was Chair of Australia’s National Mental Health Commission from 2012 to 2018 and is now a Commissioner for the Royal Commission into Mental Health in Victoria.
“My experience in public life has demonstrated to me that the media can work for the public good. This benefit cannot be achieved if we have no media.”
He also currently chairs the Visy Australasia Governance Board, is the NSW Electricity Prices Commissioner and Emergency Services Levy Monitor and is a member of the Global Advisory Board to Uber.
Professor Fels joins the highly credentialed PIJI board, comprising other senior figures across the disciplines of media, law, public policy, research, philanthropy, technology and business, effective immediately. Current board members include niche publishers Eric Beecher (Private Media), and Karen Mahlab (Pro Bono Australia).
PIJI recently advertised for an Executive Director, with applications closing mid-October. A decision is expected to be announced soon.