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Monday, 19 June 2000
Page: 15072

Senator WATSON (2:12 PM) —My question is directed to Senator Kemp, the Assistant Treasurer. Will the minister inform the Senate of the benefits which are flowing to Australian families of the Howard government's sound economic management? Is the minister aware of any alternative policy approaches?

Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) —I thank Senator Watson for that very important question. I am happy to report to the Senate that, under this government, Australia has been one of the world's best performing economies. Just last Wednesday this was confirmed by the ABS when the ABS released the national accounts for the March quarter. They confirm the very strong performance of the Australian economy.

Senator Sherry —We had a wholesale sales tax.

Senator KEMP —Senator Sherry calls out, `The wholesale sales tax'. Hasn't Senator Sherry heard that Mr Beazley is now on record as saying that he will not now repeal the GST—that Mr Beazley now supports the GST?

Senator Sherry —But you argued the wholesale sales tax was inefficient.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Sherry, you are shouting and behaving in a disorderly fashion.

Senator KEMP —Thank you, Madam President, for that protection from the hysteria of Senator Sherry. The national accounts were very good news for the economy, and they showed that the GDP increased by just over one per cent during the quarter. This exceptionally good result represents a through-the-year growth figure of 4.3 per cent. I stress that this is the 12th consecutive quarter of through-year growth above four per cent. It truly is a remarkable performance, and it reflects the very sound management of the economy by the Howard government. In addition, the national accounts confirm that this growth is occurring in a low inflation environment. That is another example of good news on the economic front.

Let me turn to some other aspects of good news which have come through. The export earnings by the minerals and energy sector increased by seven per cent in the March quarter, and home loan affordability improved during the March quarter according to the Real Estate Institute of Australia. By any benchmark, the Australian economy is one of the world's best performing economies, and it is not surprising that the results of strong growth and good management of the economy are flowing through to all Australians. The unemployment rate for May has fallen to 6.7 per cent—well below the figure that we inherited when we came into government. Many senators will remember that the unemployment level under the Labor Party peaked at some 11 per cent—11 per cent versus 6.7 per cent today.

Also, real wages are rising under the government, unlike when Labor was in government. Senator George Campbell has pointed out the very poor performance of the Keating government on real wage growth for those 13 years. I suspect, Senator Macdonald, that that particular appalling performance will not be mentioned on the tape which will be given to the winner of the naming contest. The remarkable results being achieved in the economy are not an accident; they are a result of the economic policies being pursued by the government. All of us can remember the 13 years of hard Labor under the Hawke and Keating governments. We are now continuing the reform program which has delivered this strong growth. We are of course seeking to further improve the flexibility of our labour markets and, most importantly of all, on 1 July we are providing the largest tax cuts in Australian history. (Time expired)