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Wednesday, 16 October 1985
Page: 1353

Senator MAGUIRE(5.46) —I also wish to speak on the second annual report of the Economic Planning Advisory Council. In fact, earlier this year when I spoke on its first report I described it as a milestone because it was the first report of an authority established by the Australian Labor Party Government as a result of a promise made to the people in the 1983 election campaign to introduce economic planning machinery in Australia, albeit advisory machinery. It is a very significant step forward from the situation which existed previously in Australia on the economic front.

I regret that two knocking and carping addresses have already been made this evening on this particular report because it is a very important report from a very important Australian organisation. The Economic Planning Advisory Council fills a gap which previously existed in Australia. Until the establishment of EPAC Australia was out of step with the rest of the developed world. We had no economic planning machinery in this country to speak of. That, among other factors, was reflected in this country's disastrous economic performance in the 1950s and 1960s when our growth in per capita income was among the slowest in the developed world. We had absolutely no economic planning machinery in this country. Other countries which were doing extremely well in increasing per capita incomes relied very heavily on planning mechanisms. They did not go in for rhetoric and nonsense about free markets. Countries such as Japan and the successful western European economies relied quite significantly on economic planning mechanisms to bring about high rates of economic growth.

In the year under review EPAC spent much of its activities, in addition to its normal economic forecasting and providing economic advice, in preparing material for the National Taxation Summit which was held early in July this year. In fact, EPAC members prepared 13 papers on taxation in the lead up to the National Taxation Summit. In addition, the Economic Planning Advisory Council processed over 500 submissions for the Taxation Summit from members of the community. As a result of those submissions it prepared a summary document of representative views held in the community on taxation matters. Very importantly-it is long overdue-EPAC has now developed a facility to enable it and other organisations to examine the distributional consequences of taxation. Unfortunately, under previous governments in this country, very little attention was paid to the distributional or equity aspects of taxation; that is the fairness questions. It is high time that this aspect of taxation was examined.

I am pleased to say that EPAC has now developed a facility to examine the consequences of tax changes. The Economic Planning Advisory Council is always involved in a review of the general Budget strategy of the Government. The annual Budget still remains the country's principal economic planning document, although I hope in years to come it will be downgraded as a planning document. There is far too much focus on the annual Budget of the Parliament. There should be more examination of other measures which also have a big effect on economic activity in this country. The machinery which has been set up, including EPAC, has had a profound effect on the economic performance of Australia. We are expecting a 5 per cent real growth this year on top of a 5 per cent real economic growth in the last two financial years. We are experiencing the most rapid, sustained economic growth in the Western world.

To the present time over 480,000 jobs have been created in this country since the National Economic Summit Conference in April 1983. I remain convinced that there is only one issue in the community that is really grabbing the attention of the public and that is jobs. The public is interested only in jobs; it is not interested in the Australian Bicentennial Authority or what some Minister might have said about ANZUS. The real question is jobs, and 480,000 have been created in the last 2 1/2 years.