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Tuesday, 29 November 1983
Page: 2952

Mr HOWARD —I refer the Treasurer to the statement he issued on 25 November regarding the Prime Minister and Cabinet document, in which he said, inter alia, speaking of the Economic Planning Advisory Council's response to the document:

. . . generally rejected it as inconsistent with likely future trends in the economy.

He has confirmed that response in the answer he has just given. Is it not a fact that, far from rejecting the document, EPAC described the projections as a useful tool in examining the economy? Further, did EPAC consider the implications of the study so disturbing that further technical work should be done because if there was little prospect of achieving substantial reductions in unemployment over the next few years, as the projections showed, then radical new economic policy approaches were warranted? Was EPAC so disturbed by the projections that it set up a committee to examine them in detail, along with results from other available models and, if necessary, develop further projections, and to report back to next month's meeting? If the Treasurer disputes this, will he table the minutes of the 7 October meeting of EPAC, or would he prefer that I table them?

Mr KEATING —Nothing I have said is inconsistent with the view that projections can be a useful tool in looking at certain policy responses. If one looks at the scenarios and the projections which were referred to the National Economic Summit Conference, one finds across those scenarios or projections A, B and C, that with extended wage restraint one was able to get better growth figures, for instance. Of course projections and their inputs can be useful and play a useful role in determining the likely responses of the economy to certain changes in basic economic parameters. That is the purpose of the Economic Planning Advisory Council, and it is the reason for having these projections undertaken in the first place.

The fact is that the rejection is in respect of the outcome. It does not concern the fact that the scenarios are not a useful tool or that in fact certain trends do not reveal other trends. That is one thing, but it is another to accept the outcomes mentioned in respect of a particular set of projections. What I said was that EPAC questioned technical assumptions and generally rejected the outcomes. I stand by that statement. Let me make it clear that EPAC is a body composed of representatives of business, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, consumers, the States, local government and small business. I would not be surprised or even slightly surprised, as the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition are surprised from time to time, about proceedings within EPAC. The fact is that their projections are undergoing a technical analysis by a technical committee in the same way as they were subject to a technical committee at the time of the Summit, and more work may or will be done on them.

In respect of the outcomes, EPAC, as I said, generally rejected them-and I stand by that statement-and the Government rejects them as being too pessimistic in the economic circumstances which exist, for the employment growth we have already seen and the prospects of an upturn in production, investment and employment over the period and the creation of 500,000 jobs which would impact on the key parameter which was the unemployment figure of 11.1 per cent. I reject absolutely any implication in the question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that I have in any way mislead the House or misrepresented the position.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table extracts from the minutes of the meeting of the Economic Planning Advisory Council.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member does not have the call. The honourable member for Moore has the call.