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Wednesday, 16 October 1985
Page: 1352


Senator WATSON(5.43) —The Economic Planning Advisory Council's annual report for 1984-85 is indeed a muted document. According to its charter the Council, under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), is encouraged to provide its advice freely and without unwarranted influence. However, the report appears to be selective in its comments. Its statements are fairly full and free on taxation reform and, to a lesser extent, on unemployment, to which my colleague Senator Lewis has just referred. It states that without sustained rates of economic growth unemployment will remain a problem for some considerable time. That is a truism that was recognised well before EPAC-however, there is no published view in the report, despite the Council's fleeting references, to the economic conditions and the economic outlook.

There is an acknowledgment in the report that a number of papers and information advices have helped keep the Council abreast of economic development. Having got those advices, what has it done? We are looking to the Council for inspiration. It was supposed to be the think tank. If this report was supposed to have had some sort of balance, I would have expected some sort of comprehensive report on the economic outlook for Australia. In its absence I think one can mischievously perceive that it must be bleak since it is absent from this report. I suppose its absence is not surprising considering that the Chairman is none other than the Prime Minister, Bob Hawke. Had that outlook been favourable no doubt it would have been lauded all over the pages of the report.

The section directed to the medium term review of the Australian economy, while outlining the administrative functions and structures and saying that the major part of officers resources is devoted to this project, does not give any indication of the results of that work. I think that is a travesty. It is all very well to come out with bland phrases that a framework must be orientated to reduce unemployment, increase growth and have a managed structural change. But such matters have been known for some time and one would have expected a little more by way of positive response from this so-called high-powered organisation that boasts a membership of representatives from the Business Council of Australia, the rural industry, small business, the union movement and local, State and Federal government. I therefore submit that EPAC is failing to fulfil all those grandiose objectives that were promulgated by the Prime Minister following the National Economic Summit Conference of 1983. Unfortunately, I cannot commend this report to the Senate. I think it is a shocking report.