Michele Bullock: Climate change and central banks

Text of the Sir Leslie Melville Lecture by Ms Michele Bullock, Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, at the Australian National University, Canberra, 29 August 2023.

Central bank speech  | 
01 September 2023

Thank you for the invitation to deliver this year's Sir Leslie Melville Lecture.

Melville is of course renowned for his contribution to the establishment of central banking in Australia. On that front it is a challenging time as we seek to return inflation to target in a reasonable timeframe and to preserve gains in the labour market – something that I am sure Melville would have approved of. I will have plenty of opportunities to address these important issues over the months ahead. But in this memorial lecture today, before I take up the position of Governor, I would like to address another critical issue regarding the future – climate change, its impact on the economy and implications for monetary policy.

Right up to the end of his long life, Melville was an avid consumer of news, not only economic and financial news, but also scientific news. He was noted for his preparedness to speak on contemporary policy issues, including those for which solutions were difficult and opinions divided. I therefore think Melville would have been very engaged with the issues I will address in this lecture.

There is another, more personal reason why I feel particularly pleased to be giving this lecture. As you know, I was recently appointed the next Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia – the first female to hold this position. But from what I know of Sir Leslie Melville, he was ahead of his time in terms of recognising women economists. Soon after he was appointed the Bank's first Economist in 1931, he made the rather progressive move of recruiting (Mary) Willmott Debenham as the Bank's Assistant Economist. In what was standard practice at the time, Debenham had to resign after she married. Nevertheless, I like to think that Melville would be pleased to see that a woman has now become the Governor and that there are many excellent female economists in the Reserve Bank.