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Monday, 20 May 1985
Page: 2121

Senator CHANEY —I refer the Leader of the Government in the Senate to today's report that intervention by the Prime Minister's office has blocked release of a paper prepared by the secretariat of the Economic Planning and Advisory Council on economic prospects over the coming five years. Is it true that the EPAC projections include an unemployment rate of just under 8 per cent by 1988-89 and reduced real economic growth? Is it also true that the paper suggested that unemployment could be reduced to between 6 and 7 per cent if a tighter wages policy were enforced? What point is there in setting up an allegedly independent body like EPAC if, when it produces an unpalatable report, that report is suppressed? I further ask the Minister whether, in the interests of open government and informed economic policy debate, he will try to have the EPAC report released.

Senator BUTTON —The submission from the EPAC secretariat to the EPAC meeting on Friday was in the form in which the EPAC secretariat wanted it to be. There was no interference with the decision made by the EPAC secretariat about the form of that submission, as suggested in the Australian Financial Review article. It is true that at the Council meeting on Friday it was suggested that further work should be done on certain aspects of that document. The Director of EPAC, Mr Miller, indicated today that the material which formed the basis of the Australian Financial Review article today was based on only working drafts of the study and not on any final paper for presentation to EPAC. He indicated also today that he believed that it would be some considerable time before the office could be satisfied that the technical base of the work which has been done was both sound and sufficiently well understood for the public release of projections of this kind to be constructive in the development of economic policies. Senator Chaney asked me some mini-questions-if I might put it that way; not referring to their intellectual content but to the fact that they were subordinate to the other part of the question about projections in relation to employment. As I understand it-and I answer this part of the question within the overall context of the document as a working draft-the projection concerning unemployment varied between something in the order of 7.8 per cent and 5 per cent. That figure depends upon a wide range of economic decisions and--

Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle —And wage costs?

Senator BUTTON —Including wage policy, of course. It also includes a wide range of other decisions relevant to that employment figure. As this document was a working draft which has not even been to EPAC in its final form, I cannot accede to Senator Chaney's final suggestion that in the interests of open government, or whatever, the document be tabled.