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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9612

Economy


Mr RIPOLL (Oxley) (14:42): My question is to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer update the House on the latest national accounts and what these accounts say about the strength of the Australian economy?


Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:42): I thank the member for Oxley for his question. The national accounts which were released last week show the underlying resilience of the Australian economy. The June quarter national accounts show that the economy grew by 1.2 per cent in the June quarter. What they showed was a strong bounce back from the natural disasters in Queensland of earlier this year, which the Prime Minister was just talking about—the impact of the floods and the very substantial impact of Cyclone Yasi. Also, they show that there is an underlying strength more broadly right across the Australian economy. What we see is rising incomes, very strong investment and also very solid consumption. Those are the building blocks of a strong economy.

If we go through the figures we can see that repeated time and time again. Corporate profits are growing strongly. There is also very solid wages growth. Businesses are investing with confidence, with strong growth in business investment: 1.7 per cent in the quarter and 10.2 per cent through the year. What this shows is an unprecedented investment pipeline that we have been talking about in this House through the past year. We also see that household consumption has been very solid: three per cent plus at trend. You would not necessarily think that was the case when you listen to some of the public commentary. Of course, some areas of the economy are soft, especially in retail, but overall Australians are still spending. Yes, they are saving more, but because their incomes are growing they are still spending at about trend. That was what was so pleasing about those figures.

We have seen the unemployment rate tick up a bit, to 5.3 per cent. That is still remarkably low considering what we are seeing elsewhere among developed economies. But the interesting thing in the figures of last week is that we saw that hours worked also went up. If we were to recalculate what that meant in terms of new jobs this year alone, if those hours had gone to new jobs, there would be 110,000 additional jobs created this calendar year. So, once again, we are seeing the underlying strength that I was talking about before. We have seen 140,000 more Australians in jobs over the past 12 months and we have seen three-quarters of a million new jobs since the government came to office. That is supported by everybody on this side of the House.

What all these figures confirm is that the Australian economy continues to outperform the economies of the rest of the developed world. We have done that despite the impact of the natural disasters which had a very big impact on our economy, and we have done it despite the fact that we have had continuing global instability over the past 18 months. I think these figures do serve as a reality check, particularly for those opposite who continue to talk the Australian economy down. For our part, what we celebrate with these figures is that the Australian economy has underlying strength. The Australian economy is one that can show strength despite everything that the world has been throwing at us.

So we do have a bright future. We should look at the Australian economy and say that it is like a glass that is more than half full. We should not be saying that the glass is less than half full. These are strengths that serve our country well and that give people the confidence and the security that they can earn a decent income and take home a pay cheque to their family each week. This country has come through the biggest economic crisis we have seen on the globe for 75 years and it has come through with strength. That is something we can all be proud of.