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Friday, 22 March 1985
Page: 677

Senator COOK —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister seen the extraordinary article in yesterday's Canberra Times gratuitously headlined 'Helping hand for PM's speechwriters' and written by the discredited former Secretary to the Treasury, Mr John Stone? If so, did the Minister see the criticism of the Hawke Labor Government's economic performance? Specifically, is there any truth in the claim that 'our own economy is showing signs of falling apart'; or could the words 'showing signs of falling apart' be a perverse form of praise from Mr Stone, in that they grudgingly acknowledge that, despite his best efforts, this Government has got the economy together and going again? Would the Minister be worried if Mr Stone praised him?

Senator WALSH —I do not know about praise; but I would certainly be worried if this Government's economic analysis were the same as Mr Stone's. Mr Stone's economic analyses were noted for firstly reaching conclusions and then searching around to try to find some evidence to support them, and producing different sorts of evidence at different times. With reference to Mr Stone's allegation that the economy shows signs of falling apart, it ought to be noted that employment has grown by 360,000 in the last 22 months, which is more than the employment growth recorded in the seven years during which Mr Stone presided over the Treasury. Indeed, in the last year of the joint occupation of the Treasury by Mr Stone and the discredited former Government, 186,000 jobs were lost; that is, employment actually fell absolutely by 186,000 in that 12-month period. It has increased absolutely by 360,000 in less than two years. The unemployment rate has come down from above 10 per cent to 8.3 per cent-not that the Government regards that as an acceptable figure, of course-and the inflation rate in the December quarter of 1984 as compared with the same quarter in the previous year was the lowest it had been in 13 years. Economic growth in 1983-84 was 5.3 per cent, as compared with minus 1.1 per cent in the last year of the joint Fraser-Stone tenancy of the Treasury, or the Stone-Howard occupation of it, and gross domestic product growth throughout the course of 1983-84 was the strongest in the industrial world. In that instance, as in so many instances in the past, however, Mr Stone has not allowed the facts to stand in the way of his pet theories and predetermined conclusions.