Former Treasury secretary Ted Evans dead at 79

“He was a supporter of floating the currency when the Treasury was opposed to it, backed the independence of the Reserve Bank when we introduced that in 1998. He was there for the introduction of the GST and balancing the budget.”

The measures, along with tax reform, industrial relations flexibility and financial system deregulation, are seen as critical in pushing Australia through 28 years of economic growth.

Mr Costello, who worked with Mr Evans from 1996 to 2001, said he “gave frank and fearless advice” that was “in the best tradition of the public service”.

“Sometimes I agreed with it and sometimes I didn’t, but I always appreciated his honesty.”

Former prime minister Paul Keating said Mr Evans was always “brave in breaking formerly forbidden policy ground”.

“Ted was a prince in a bureaucracy at the peak of its powers and influence. A peak he helped create,” he said.

“Ted was always restrained but invested with fierce beliefs, which he held in a vice-like grip.”

Mr Keating, who worked closely with Mr Evans both as treasurer and prime minister in the 1980s and 1990s, said he helped steer major tax reform, including changes to personal and company tax rates, capital gains, superannuation tax treatment and dividend imputation.

Mr Keating said the measures radically changed “Australia’s sclerotic command and control economy” into the “competitive and flexible one we have today”.

Mr Evans was regarded by his colleagues as a humble and decent man who did not seek the limelight in a world of big egos.

Westpac chief executive Peter King said Mr Evans was small in stature but a giant among policy-makers and business leaders and helped lead the bank through the tumult of the global financial crisis.

“As a result of his and the executive leadership of the time, Westpac came out of this period well positioned and able to support its customers through this very difficult period,” he said.

“Ted had sat at the biggest decision-making tables in Australia. He provided quiet but wise counsel to a generation of Westpac leaders. It might have been a different way of looking at a problem or testing the logic in a board note.

“You knew you had to get your facts right, have thought about the bigger picture and you had to be succinct in putting your arguments.”

Mr Costello said Mr Evans’ greatest legacy was nurturing a group of very talented future leaders, including Treasury secretaries Ken Henry and Martin Parkinson.

“He made an enormous contribution to Australian economic policy and his legacy will be enduring,” he said.

Mr Evans is survived by his wife Judith, two children from his first marriage to Heather, and two step-children.

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