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Thursday, 21 October 2010
Page: 1191


Mr GRAY (Special Minister of State and Special Minister of State for the Public Service and Integrity) (9:57 AM) —I am honoured to pay tribute to Ian Castles, an outstanding economist who died suddenly on 2 August this year. Mr Castles lived a life of strength, integrity and modesty. His extraordinary career in public service spanned the Whitlam, Fraser and Hawke governments. He was respected by prime ministers and successive federal cabinets. As a key driver of economic reform in the 1970s and 1980s, his contribution to Australia’s economy is still with us. The determination of Mr Castles that data rather than ideology should inform and guide policy enabled him to be frank and fearless in his views. It also led to his scepticism about the views and predictions of the Club of Rome. His advice was always put with patience and modest conviction. Former finance ministers Peter Walsh and Dame Margaret Guilfoyle regarded Ian Castles as the most significant civil servant and economist of his day.

Australia has lost one of its truly great thinkers. His intellect inspired political leaders and thousands of fellow public servants to strive for a deeper understanding of the interaction between economics and policy and to develop a thirst for research, analysis and knowledge. Ian Castles saw the synergies in the tax and social security systems and the potential for these policy instruments to work together as a single system. He was instrumental in the big reforms to family allowances, superannuation and income tax. His contribution did not end there. It was Castles who suggested that a department be set up solely for financial management.

Mr Castles went on to challenge the opinions of John Kenneth Galbraith and Kenneth Clarke in his 1985 monograph Economics and anti-economics, arguing that economics, far from being the dismal science, can and does support the pursuit of the common good. Castles used the lessons of economic history to contradict the claim that economics acted against the public interest. He later went on to challenge Donald Horne and Hugh Stretton and to discredit their view that the Australian Public Service was the home of privileged dynastic public servants. As Australian Statistician, Mr Castles reviewed the consumer price index and began the task of broadening the living standard measures beyond gross domestic product.

During this time he also became an electoral commissioner. For the first time the Australian Statistician sat as an independent electoral commissioner, ensuring demographics and population growth were central features of electoral boundaries and electoral fairness. Under Ian Castles, the Bureau of Statistics led the gathering of information, providing everything from balance of payments figures to inflation, unemployment rates, crime and divorce statistics. While much of his profound influence was behind the scenes, his intellect, economics and what has been described as his ‘luminous thought’ earned him the reputation as ‘Australia’s numbers man’. Throughout his many roles, Mr Castles achieved outcomes that affect our lives today. Without his contribution, Australia would be poorer.

In describing his father, Richard Castles said he was ‘an old style civil servant’. Indeed, one of Richard’s favourite moments was of Gough Whitlam remarking of his father, ‘Ah, one of my best appointments ever.’ To his family, Mr Castles was a humble, thoughtful man who believed in doing what was right. He had immense love for his wife, Glenys, and his children and grandchildren. I am indebted to Richard Castles, Peter Walsh and Dame Margaret Guilfoyle for their help with these words. My thoughts are with Ian Castles’s family—his wife, Glenys; children, Ann, Richard, Simon and Jane; and grandchildren, Jack and William. (Time expired)