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Monday, 2 April 2001
Page: 26125

Mrs DRAPER (2:14 PM) —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer advise the House of the February retail trade figures released on this very important day by the Australian Bureau of Statistics?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for Makin for her question. I can inform her that the Australian Bureau of Statistics today released the retail trade figures for February showing a retail trade increase of 1.2 per cent for that month, coming on top of a 1.1 per cent increase in January. So retail trade is now 8.1 per cent higher than it was a year ago. The February outcome was significantly higher than market expectations and the increase in retail trade was broadly based: retailing and general retailing up 3.2 per cent, department stores up 1.9 per cent, recreational goods retailing up 1.5 per cent and food retailing up 1.4 per cent. By region, all states and territories recorded increases in February. That indicates that retailers are, I believe, taking not just advantage of good prices at the moment but advantages that have been given by cuts in income tax which came into effect on 1 July of last year and an accommodative monetary policy which has saved home mortgage buyers over $3,000 per annum on the average mortgage since this government came to office.

We had a very interesting premiers conference here in Canberra on Friday of last week. All of the state Treasurers arrived here in Canberra—five of them Labor Treasurers. I got the opportunity to meet for the first time the Labor Treasurer of Victoria, Mr John Brumby, who made the following comment after the premiers conference, speaking on Melbourne ABC radio. Mr Brumby, a real Treasurer in a real government—albeit a Labor one. Mr John Brumby, the Labor Treasurer—and I would urge, on thinking members of the House, consideration of his words—said:

I don't like people talking of recession. I don't like people talking the economy down. I don't think that is where we are at.

That was on Friday afternoon. Have a guess who called the press around to a soccer match on Saturday to talk the Australian economy down? Who do you think would have thought it was so important to have the press at a soccer game so that he could talk down the Australian economy? Here is Brumby on Friday, basically laying the finger on the Leader of the Opposition and his henchmen, saying, `I don't like people talking the economy down. I don't think it is where we are at.' He could not resist for 24 hours. He had to get the press around to a soccer match in an absolutely irresponsible action. No ideas, no policy—just a desire to try and make false political capital out of talking the Australian economy down—and not nearly as responsible as Mr John Brumby, and that is saying something.