Celebrating the life of Fred Gruen

The ANU has celebrated the life and contribution of the late Professor Fred Gruen, unveiling a lost portrait which will hang in a room named after him.

Professor Gruen was one of Australia's most influential economists. He helped inform the government and public about economic policy issues over several decades.

He also set up the Gruen Endowment, which continues to fund research into economic and social policy.

His two sons, David and Nicholas, have continued his work as respected economists. David is the Deputy Secretary of Treasury and Nicholas is a senior economist and economic commentator.

Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson took time out from working on the Abbott government's first budget to attend the portrait unveiling and to honour Professor Gruen's work.

Professor Bruce Chapman, who worked closely with Professor Gruen, described him as a person with a warm heart and a cool head.

"In my view, Fred was the best sort of economist: committed to the notion that markets deliver efficiency, but at the same time Fred had a consummate feel for the needs of the disadvantaged," Professor Chapman said.

"His sense of the importance of equality shows in the subjects he chose to research, among them unemployment and income distribution."

Emeritus Professor Bob Gregory also praised Professor Gruen's contribution.

"Fred Gruen was a remarkable influence in Australian economics. He had a presence, a charisma and a rare sense of what really matters for the economics profession," Professor Gregory said.

Born in Austria, Fred, along with a large number of German Jewish interns from the UK, arrived in Australia on the Dunera in 1940. They were then sent to a World War Two internment camp at Hay in country New South Wales.

The portrait was painted by a fellow internee Erwin Fabian. Those who arrived on the Dunera made a large contribution to Australian post-war intellectual history.

Professor Gruen died in 1997.