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Monday, 10 October 1994
Page: 1332

Senator COONEY (4.48 p.m.) —We have heard much in terms of figures today about the economy. A point that is often made in this chamber is the point that I make, that we can take figures to prove anything. Indeed, if we take certain figures, things in the economy look bad. There is no doubt that this government has to face up to the fact that the current account deficit for August was $2.1 billion, which is not good. But to simply grab a figure like that and say, `There is a $2.1 billion deficit, therefore, the economy is in dreadful shape,' does not really address the issue. It was said by Senator Baume and by Senator Kernot that some answers should be given if a strategy other than the one the government is running is to be adopted. That is absolutely true. But quoting figures does not give the overall impression of what is going on in the economy.

  A better way of judging how the economy is being run is to look at what the newspapers say. I refer in particular to today's Australian Financial Review. The sorts of things that are said in the Financial Review give an impression of how the economy overall is going, rather than how it is going in terms of particular sets of figures which can be taken selectively to prove any particular case. I do not say they are taken selectively in any pejorative sense, but when somebody has a case to prove, there are always figures to prove what is desired to be proved. It is a bit like the Bible—you can quote things out of that to prove there is no God. If we look at today's Financial Review—and Senator Sherry referred to this—a headline on the front page reads, `Growth surge to 5-year high'. The article reads:

Manufacturers are predicting their strongest December quarter for five years, and expect strong employment growth to create another 6,000 jobs over the next 12 months.

  Employment in the building industry is also forecast to rise over the next six months, with market economists predicting that the September labour force data due out this week will show vigorous jobs growth and a higher participation rate.

The article gives nothing but praise for the way in which the economy is going. It continues:

  The survey shows strong sales and export growth are also expected in the December quarter, with 47 per cent of firms anticipating sales increases and 32 per cent predicting export growth.

On page 5 of the Financial Review we see this headline: `Poll lead no lure for early election'. The article points out that the popularity of the Prime Minister, Mr Keating, is well above that of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Downer. That shows how the economy is going. If it were going badly in people's minds, that would not be the perception that they would give to the journalists who are reporting for the Financial Review. On page 6 there is an article headed, `More jobs expected as Toyota revs up its Melbourne exports'. It reads:

Auto component manufacturers are looking for a jobs windfall on the back of a major Middle East export program being developed by Toyota Australia.

Hundreds of extra supply sector jobs are likely to be created if, as Toyota Australia officials confidently expect, an offshore deal to sell Melbourne-produced Camrys to the Gulf States gets approval early next year.

On page 8 we see this headline: `Finder tells all about $33bn food industry'. The article reads:

Government ministers and departments involved in Australia's $33 billion a year food industry, have got in for their chop in a new guide to the massively growing sector.

On the same page there is an article with this headline: `China seen as major grain importer soon'—again, making markets available for Australia.(Time expired)