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Monday, 27 October 1997
Page: 8127


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer)(7.36 p.m.) —I take the point of Senator Cook. I entirely trust you on these matters. If you say that is what it is, I am sure that is the case. However, that particular issue is but one of a number, and it is probably the most simple one to seek to forecast. You can make estimates as to the number of people being funded and the contributions that are being made, and you could use relatively simple formulae to estimate the impact in out years, going out for some time. There are other costs, of course, and other influences that might be harder to determine.

I think all senators would agree that this would be a major undertaking, a major exercise. Senator Murray is quite right—the first report will be a very important one. To steal Senator Margett's language in relation to environmental matters, it will be a baseline report. It will be important to get the matters in that report as accurate as possible and ensure that you will not have to keep changing them every five years, or whenever you produce a further report.

We think it is important to have an assurance that at least twice a decade you have this long-term report. People will anticipate this report. It will become a very important focus of national economic attention. It will focus national debate on long-term economic trends. It will ensure that people do focus on trends within the economy—the ageing of the population, the cost of providing services, the cost of a range of other longer term items—so you are not continually putting off hard decisions year after year until they get so hard that they have the potential to cripple the economy as a whole, or deferring expenses to future generations unfairly. So it is an important matter. It is important to get it right, and to retain the flexibility to do it at least once every five years but also in the near term.

Amendment agreed to.