Tinkering-1

Mr John Clarke

A Treasury Official enters the box, takes the oath and prepares himself.

BARRISTER: Mr Trouser. You are with the Federal Treasury?

TROUSER: I’m with the Planning and Projections Dept.

JUDGE: Are you the Head of the Treasury?

TROUSER: No. I run the Planning and Projections Dept.

JUDGE: What is it that you plan and project Mr Trouser?

TROUSER: Information comes to us as raw data from all sectors of the economy. Over a period of 3 months this data is analysed by our department. (Holds up several New York-phone-directory- sized books.) These are the current figures. We identify trends and extrapolate them into the future and advise the government on management of the economy.

JUDGE: And so you are therefore responsible for the management of the economy?

TROUSER: Not always, no.

BARRISTER: Why not? You’ve analysed the figures, you’ve made your projections, you’ve extrapolated. Does the government not accept your advice?

TROUSER: The government has to take into account political considerations.

BARRISTER: Such as what?

TROUSER: Such as how the electorate might react, what the party might want, how to sell it to caucus and whether the economic and finance ministers have got the numbers in cabinet.

JUDGE: I don’t know that we’re getting anywhere here. We want the person who makes the decisions.

BARRISTER: Who takes responsibility for these political considerations?

TROUSER: Ultimately they’d be a matter for the Prime Minister.

JUDGE: Clerk, have the Prime Minister served with a subpoena to attend this Inquiry and give evidence.

CLERK: The Prime Minister?

JUDGE: Yes.

CLERK: Of Australia?

JUDGE: Ideally, yes.

CLERK: Do you think he’ll come?

JUDGE: It’s not an invitation, it’s a subpoena. You don’t RSVP to them, you turn up or you get popped in the sneezer. If he’s worried about who’s got more power in this country, the Prime Minister or a ceremonial official appointed by the Queen, refer him to his diary for 1975. Go ahead counsel.

BARRISTER: Mr Trouser, you’ve told us that over a 3 month period you collect information and analyse it for trends. What do you do when you find one?

JUDGE: He extrapolates.

BARRISTER: So what’s going to happen Mr Trouser? In the next few months. What’s a likely next development in the economy?

TROUSER: I’ve no idea. I don’t have the current information.

BARRISTER: I thought this [holds up sheaf] was the current information.

TROUSER: They are the current figures but they’re not based on the current Information.

BARRISTER: The current figures are not based on current information?

TROUSER: No. The current information is coming in NOW.

BARRISTER: So what are the current figures based on?

TROUSER: They’re based on the information available at the time the current figures were being prepared.

BARRISTER: Which was when?

TROUSER: 3 months ago. The figures take 3 months to assemble.

BARRISTER: Is it possible for you to tell what’s happening now?

TROUSER: Yes of course it is.

BARRISTER: When could you do that?

TROUSER: In 3 months.

JUDGE: What we mean Mr Trouser, is what is happening out there now? How are ordinary people doing? Mr and Mrs Wheelbarrow going to the supermarket, how are they coping?

TROUSER: That would be the CPI Your Honour. Down 2%.

BARRISTER: That’s the current figure?

TROUSER: Yes. Announced this morning.

JUDGE: Yes but does it describe what’s happening NOW?

TROUSER: We would hope so. It’s the current figure.

BARRISTER: For what period?

TROUSER: For the current period.

BARRISTER: Which ended when?

TROUSER: 3 months ago.

BARRISTER: Do you know ANYTHING about what’s happening now?

TROUSER: We know what’s happening currently.

BARRISTER: That’s 3 months ago. Do you know what’s happening today?

TROUSER: No but I will in 3 months.

JUDGE: Do you know what happened yesterday?

TROUSER: Oh come on Your Honour, I can’t see into the future. I’m not a magician.

Royal Commission