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Economic Planning Advisory Council: new arrangements

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Today I am announcing changes to EPAC. Its tenth year of operation provides an appropriate time to make changes to enhance its future role.

EPAC has contributed substantially to promoting a broader consensus and understanding o f A ustralia's medium and long-term economic and social prospects.

There has been a convergence o f view s among major groups in Australia th a t was unthinkable a decade earlier.

EPAC discussion and consultation was the early linchpin fo r th a t process. Similarly, EPAC's reports have helped inform and shape debate on a w ide range o f issues including: foreign and public sector debt, savings and investm ent, population ageing, g ro w th potential, productivity, public

sector benchm arking, enterprise bargaining and m icro-econom ic reform .

I now w ish to build on these achievem ents by creating a new advisory group, by developing and focusing the public inform ation w ork of EPAC, and by establishing a capacity fo r related special projects in order to extend EPAC activities.

In order to improve my access to new ideas and new w ays forw ard in business and econom ic m atters, I w ill be appointing a new "Economic Round-Table" to replace EPAC Council. The members o f this small group w ill include the Treasurer and creative business achievers and

independent-m inded individuals w ho are thinkers and doers. The aim is to avoid simple interest group representation and to have flexible membership-arrangements in order to keep the ideas flow ing . I w ill chair

the Group and relevant Ministers w ill be invited to attend. The Group w ill give attention to the possible role for the Government on key strategic issues and to links to broader social concerns. Initial com position o f the Group w ill be announced soon w hen members have agreed to their

appointm ents.


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I thank all present and past members of the EPAC Council fo r their contribution to developing our medium and longer-term thinking and policy. I w ill be meeting w ith many of these members in the numerous other fora w hich have emerged for interchange o f view s, and I look forw ard to those continuing associations.

Turning to the Office of EPAC, it is my intention th a t its w idely respected w o rk in producing public reports on medium and longer-term issues should continue. For many today, the name of EPAC is associated more w ith these studies than w ith the meetings of Council. The small group of

past and present staff of the Office of EPAC deserve credit fo r this achievem ent.

The acronym EPAC w ill continue w ith the re-establishm ent o f the Office of EPAC as the Economic Planning A dvisory Comm ission. The Commission w ill continue to publish accessible and authoritative studies as in the past, but I wish the opportunity to be taken to develop a more

them atic focus, w ith EPAC producing few e r but high quality reports. For 1994-95 the Commission w ill look at three themes o f fundam ental importance fo r Australia's medium and longer-term future : Globalisation, Investm ent and G row th, and W ork Patterns.

In addition, I am asking Professor Glenn W ithers, the head o f EPAC, to establish a capacity fo r related special projects w hich w ill allow EPAC to broaden the range of its activities to include provision o f policy advice on medium-term issues in selected areas. EPAC w ill retain its w ell-

established role in co-ordinating for the Com m onwealth submissions on the Budget by business, trade union and com m unity groups and reporting publicly on their content. It w ill also strengthen public discussion on medium and long-term issues through seminars and conferences.

In particular I am asking EPAC to convene a major conference on Long­ Term National Strategies to be held in Sydney on November 24-25. This Governm ent has long taken a farsighted view of the co u n try's direction and has acted upon that. A t the same tim e, it is appropriate th a t we take stock periodically beyond the immediate political arena. The ■ -Government has· a-com m itm ent to hearing broad debate before policy

decisions are made. This Conference w ill do this and w ill itself help define the longer-term w ork program for EPAC. More details o f this Conference w ill be announced soon.


Finally, I intend th a t the Commission be able to undertake task force w ork on suitable projects as requested by Governm ent. These could cover a w ide variety o f topics w ith a medium-term focus. They w ould mainly be directed at reporting over 3-6 months periods and tapping the

best talent from outside the public service, including as task force heads, and obtaining transfer or secondm ent of top expertise from w ithin the public service. The projects may often have a sharper policy focus than for regular EPAC studies, but w ill still benefit from EPAC's remove from

policy im plem entation responsibilities. I w ill announce the initial projects of this kind shortly.

The Commission w ill be responsible to the Prime M inister, as is the present Office o f EPAC.

The changes I have announced today w ill increase still furthe r the contributions to be made by EPAC in identifying the issues underpinning our future, fo r filtering the argum ents and evidence and fo r discussing

the issues in a balanced and authoritative w ay. I also look forw ard to meeting w ith the new "Economic Round-Table" as a new source of insights fo r the Governm ent.

CANBERRA 16 August 1994.