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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 697


Senator JESSOP —My question is directed to the Minister for Education. I ask: Is the Dr R. G. Hawkins who prepared the interest rates briefing note she so obligingly tabled yesterday the same Dr Hawkins who has a PhD in economics from the Australian National University and who is currently First Assistant Secretary, Industry Policy Division, in the Department of Housing and Construction, Chairman of the Construction Forecasting Committee, Secretary of the Construction Industry Council, a member of the Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry-which was the body responsible for the report referred to in the Minister's answer yesterday-a member of the joint venture for more affordable housing and one of the most highly regarded and experienced officials in the Department of Housing and Construction with responsibility for providing the sort of advice contained in the briefing note? Does he have the confidence of the Government in that task?


Senator RYAN —This may come as a surprise, but I have not seen the curriculum vitae of the person whose name was on the briefing note yesterday. I do not know whether all of those distinctions claimed in the honourable senator's question are rightly attributed to that person. What I do know, and what I have said to the media since yesterday, is that the view put forward in that briefing note is not the view of the Government. The Government's view, as put forward by the Prime Minister, is that the Government is cautiously optimistic on the economic outlook, including the prospects for falls in the general level of interest rates in 1987. There is reason for this cautious optimism because of the Government's policy of fiscal and wages restraint. It is expected that those policies will enable us to rely progressively less on monetary policy, resulting in lower interest rates in time. The view of the Government on interest rates has been put by the Prime Minister in the other place and by my colleague the Minister for Finance on a major Australian Broadcasting Corporation program last night, and it is a view that I share. The view put forward yesterday was put forward, mistakenly, by me on the assumption that it reflected the Government's view. It did not, which is a regrettable fact. As to the distinctions and academic career of the author, I really cannot assist the Senate in that matter.


Senator JESSOP —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. Will the Government guarantee that Dr Hawkins will not be treated in the same way as were John Reid, Harry Butler and the Centre of Policy Studies, all of whom have been penalised for daring to disagree with the Government in statements that have been made? Also, can I ask the Minister to table the document from which she quoted?


Senator RYAN —Mr President, as you will be very well aware, the remarks just made by the honourable senator do not constitute a supplementary question. Yes, I will table the document.