Michael Johnson

Honorary Associate Professor

Michael Johnson is an Associate Professor at the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW. He teaches on a part-time basis in the MA Development Studies program.


Michael's research interests include investigating the role of the public sector in the economy; infrastructure provision (especially water and electricity infrastructure and infrastructure policy); regulation as well as the area of public management and its reform. He is also interested in environmental management and development policy in the area of the role of 'not-for-profits' and the application of human rights to development work.


Michael was a founding Director on the Board of The Fred Hollows Foundation and is currently a director. In this role, which overlaps his academic research interests, he is interested in research on applying a human rights framework to development organisations and programs.

 He was awarded the Membership of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Queen's Birthday Day Awards in 2014 for his contribution to tackling avoidable blindness in the world and higher education.Research Areas


Research areas include the role and management of the public sector in the Australian economy and society, especially in the area of infrastructure policy and the regulation of water, electricity and social services. Policy development, with a focus on the management of NGOs , their programs and the application of a human rights framework to development work in low income countries.


Current Research Projects


Effective and efficient management of international NGOs working in development

This project involves examining critical aspects of  the effective and efficient management of international NGOs working in development. These include studies of the growing numbers of formally established social and community organisations in developing countries, the nature of international NGOs relations with them and  areas of concern in these relationships, including the nature of any 'partnerships' and including their policy, regulatory and governance dimensions.


Application of a human rights framework to development programs in developing countries

The particular area of concern here is in relation to the extension of the rights that contribute to employment and income security and the rights framework applied to the access to medical services, particularly those related to restoring sight.


Political economy of the provision and reform of infrastructure in Australia

In particular a focus on the public/private mix in infrastructure provision by the states and Commonwealth and the effectiveness of the current policies and institutional structure used to manage it.



Postgraduate Research Supervision


Areas of Supervision
Development studies, economic development, human rights and development, infrastructure provision, infrastructure reform, economic and social regulation, public sector reform


Recent Postgraduate Research Completions


  • Yolande Kyngdon, PhD Politics, 2013, The ethical trade of diamonds
  • Carolyn Jackson, PhD Social Science & Policy, 2013,  The emergence and regulatory activities if independent social regulators in Australia 
  • Donna Vaughan, PhD Social Science & Policy, 2011,  ICT and development in Sri Lanka and Australia 
  • Christopher Walker, PhD Social Science & Policy,2010,  Public sector reform in the road transport sector
  • Thanyawat Rattanasak, PhD Social Science & Policy, 2009, Electricity generation and distribution in Thailand: Policy making, policy actors and conflict in the policy process
  • Anthony Ivancic, PhD Sociology, 2008, The transformation in direct household share ownership Australia: embourgeoisement? democracy?
  • Lynne Chester, PhD Social Science & Policy, 2007, What are the outcomes and who benefits from the restructuring of the Australian electricity sector?
  • Karen Fisher, PhD Social Science & Policy, 2007, Whose values shape social policy? Policy process explanations about limits to economic rationalism, the case of Australian coordinated care policy 1994 to 2001
  • Priscilla Pontoh, 2004, Master of Social Science, Kaldorian approach to the dynamics of economic growth and development: the case of Indonesia.
  • Aslam Alam, PhD Social Science & Policy, 2003, Institutions in transition: Environmental policy making in developing countries: The case of Bangladesh
  • Chris Aulich, PhD in Social Science & Policy, 2000, Outsourcing in local government in Victoria





Teaching areas
Political economy, theory and practice of development, international development policy


Current teaching

SOCW 7852 The Politics of International Aid

 Occasional lectures in courses on economic development, health and human rights and policy studies/

Affiliation and Memberships


  • Currently a Director  of the Fred Hollows Foundation (FHF) that has development programs in 21 countries in Asia and Africa. He was one of the original Directors of FHF when it was established in 1993 and currently serves on the FHF Board Finance and Governance and is Chair of the Governance and Nominations Committees of the Board and has contributed to developing the FHF programs in Africa.
  • Was a Member of the Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences Discipline Panel of the Australia Research Council from 1998 to 2001
  • Was founding Director of the Public Sector Research Centre at UNSW and The Eritrean Education and Training Fund that contributed to creating a College of Engineering at the University of Asmara, Eritrea in the 1990's
  • Has been a consultant to government organisations and trade unions
  • Was an economic policy advisor to the Commonwealth Government from 1983 to 1987and worked in various capacities in the private sector


Other Information


Michael previously taught economic history, theory and policy in the School of Economics at UNSW.


Subject areas


Tarantola D; Byrnes AC; Johnson MR; Kemp LA; Zwi A; Gruskin S, 2008, Human Rights, Health and Development: Technical Series Paper #08.1, 1st, The UNSW Initiative for Health and Human Rights, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
Book Chapters
Johnson MR, 2011, 'Transforming the Public Sector', in Argyrous G; Stilwell F (ed.), Readings in Political Economy: Economics as a Social Science, edn. Third, Tilde University Press, Victoria, Australia, pp. 281 - 287, http://www.tup.net.au/publications-new/Readings_in_Political_Economy1.aspx
Johnson MR, 2011, 'Meeting Australia's Infrastructure Needs', in Argyrous G; Stilwell F (ed.), Readings in Political Economy: Economics as a Social Science, edn. Third, Tilde University Press, Victoria, Australia, pp. 325 - 329, http://www.tup.net.au/publications-new/Readings_in_Political_Economy1.aspx
Johnson MR, 2003, 'Transforming The Public Sector', in Stilwell F; Argyrous G (ed.), Economics as a Social Science (2nd Ed), edn. 2nd, Pluto Press, Annandale, pp. 297 - 301
Johnson MR, 2002, 'Economic Principles for Transport Infrastructure Investment', in McKerral J (ed.), Sustainable Transport for Sustainable Cities: Transport Pricing: More Than Just a Tax, edn. 1st, Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering, Sydney, pp. 87 - 91
Johnson MR, 2001, 'The Impact of New Public Management on the Reform of the Transportation Infrastructure in Sydney', in Jones LR (ed.), Learning From International Public Management Reform, edn. Original, JAI / Elsevier Science, Oxford, UK, pp. 77 - 88
Johnson MR, 2000, 'Balancing Sustainability', in Sustainable Transport and Sustainable Cities: The state of Play, edn. Original, Warren Centre, Uni of Sydney, pp. 181 - 189
Johnson MR, 1995, 'Infrastructure and Australia`s economic and social development through the 1990`s: assessing the problem and priorities', in EPAC, Private Infrastructure Task Force, Interim Report: Commissioned Studies, edn. Original, AGPS, Canberra
Conference Papers
Johnson MR, 2009, 'Taking Institutional Factors into Account in Addressing the Practical Challenges and Dilemma's of Making a Human Rights Approach Adopted by a Development Organisation Effective', in Heterodox Economics? Visions : Proceedings Refereed papers, Society of Heterodox Economists, 2009, presented at 8th Australian Siciety of Heterodox Economists Conference, UNSW, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 07 December 2009 - 08 December 2009
Johnson MR, 2008, 'Developing the Human Rights Framework for Economic Development: A Heterodox Approach', in Contemporary Issues for Heterodox Economics, Society of Heterodox Economists, The University of New South Wales, presented at 7th Australian Society of Heterdox Economists Conference, UNSW, 08 December 2008 - 09 December 2008
Johnson MR, 2007, 'The Need for Further Evaluation of the Impact of Privatisation', in 6th Australian Society of Heterodox Economists Conference, 6th Australian Society of Heterodox Economists Conference, University of New South Wales, presented at 6th Australian Society of Heterodox Economists Conference, University of New South Wales, 10 December 2007 - 11 December 2007
Johnson MR, 2006, 'Is the Public Sector Ethical Framework Enough? Markets, Commercialisation and Ethics in the Management of the Changing Public Sector', in AAPAE 13th Annual Conference, 13th AAPAE Annual Conference, University of New South Wales, presented at 13th AAPAE Annual Conference, University of New South Wales, 12 June 2006 - 14 June 2006
Johnson MR; Chester LM, 2006, 'A New Approach Needed for Australia`s Infrastructure', in 5th Australian Society of Heterodox Economists Conference, 5th Australian Society of Heterodox Economists Conference, University of New South Wales, presented at 5th Australian Society of Heterodox Economists Conference, University of New South Wales, 11 December 2006 - 12 December 2006
Conference Presentations
Johnson MR, 2011, 'managing Uncertainty: The changing regulatory regime of not-for-profit organisations in Australia and Questions of 'over' and 'under' regulation', presented at Australian Society of Heteredox Economists Conference, UNSW, 05 December 2011 - 06 December 2011
Journal articles
Myers CT; McMahon JM; Schneider AL; Petrovski S; Allen AS; Carvill GL; Zemel M; Saykally JE; LaCroix AJ; Heinzen EL; Hollingsworth G; Nikanorova M; Corbett M; Gecz J; Coman D; Freeman J; Calvert S; Gill D; Carney P; Lerman-Sagie T; Sampaio H; Cossette P; Delanty N; Dlugos D; Eichler EE; Epstein MP; Glauser T; Johnson MR; Kuzniecky R; Marson AG; O'Brien TJ; Ottman R; Petrou S; Poduri A; Pickrell WO; Chung SK; Rees MI; Sherr E; Sadleir LG; Goldstein DB; Lowenstein DH; Møller RS; Berkovic SF; Scheffer IE; Mefford HC, 2016, 'De Novo Mutations in SLC1A2 and CACNA1A Are Important Causes of Epileptic Encephalopathies', American Journal of Human Genetics, vol. 99, pp. 287 - 298, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2016.06.003
Tarantola D; Byrnes A; Gruskin S; Johnson MR; Zwi A; Kemp LA, 2008, 'Human Rights, Health and Development', Australian Journal of Human Rights, vol. 13, pp. 1 - 31, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1323238X.2008.11910833
Johnson MR, 2008, 'Privatisation, Myopia and the Long-run Provision of Economic Infrastructure in Australia', The Economic and Labour Relations Review, vol. 19, pp. 57 - 72
Johnson MR, 2007, 'Is the Existing Ethical Framework Sufficient to Manage the Current Extension of Contracting and Competition in the Australian Public Sector?', Australian Journal of Professional and Applied Ethics, vol. 9, #2, pp. 96 - 105
Johnson MR, 2002, 'Integrating Environmental and Economic Data: Reporting to Create a National Accounting Framework for the Environment', Economic and Labour Relations Review, vol. Vol, pp. 226 - 243
Johnson MR, 1998, 'Review of `Who`s Utility:The Social Impact of Public Utility Privatisation and Regulation in Britian`', Economic and Labour Relations Review, pp. 347 - 353
Johnson MR, 1998, 'Review of `Unlocking the Infrastructure: The Reform of Public Utilities in Australia`', Economic and Labour Relations Review, pp. 347 - 353