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Wednesday, 5 September 1984
Page: 471

Senator ZAKHAROV —I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. What would be the effect of the abolition of the Economic Planning Advisory Council, as has been recommended recently by the Opposition? What part has EPAC played in the management of the Australian economy, which has now achieved the highest rate of growth of any member country of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development?

Senator BUTTON —I suppose that is a difficult question to answer because these things are, in a sense, intangible and unquantifiable. We have seen the Opposition proposal about the abolition of EPAC and a number of other bodies in that somewhat flamboyant statement which was issued and which was described as the Opposition's industry policy. In that statement EPAC was singled out for abolition as were a number of other government advisory bodies. EPAC is an important part of the Government's consultative arrangements on the economy. Members of EPAC have been subject to some criticism. Nonetheless the Government regards it as a very worthwhile body in terms of consultation on matters relating to the economy.

The contribution made by EPAC in recent months has been considerable. The Government expects that it will be more so as EPAC staffing arrangements are finalised and questions such as a variety of taxation matters which have to be addressed come up for consideration, and the views of the business community, the trade union community and others will necessarily be considered in the context of any such review. I remind the Senate that Mr Coates, a representative of employer organisations on EPAC, has, in spite of a degree of personal criticism about his involvement in that body, said that he regards it as a very worthwhile organisation. Mr Kelty of the Australian Council of Trade Unions said the same sort of thing; and Mr Gibbons of the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia has said that he would not vote for any government that would abolish a body such as EPAC, because of the capacity of that body to enable people representative of organisations such as his to make a contribution to the general economic welfare of this country. The answer to the honourable senator's question, in summary, is that EPAC has made a contribution, it has been widely recognised, and the Government expects it to make an even more significant contribution in the years ahead.