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Thursday, 22 June 2000
Page: 15486

Senator McGAURAN (2:54 PM) —My question is to the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Kemp. Will the minister inform the Senate of details of the Westpac-Melbourne Institute leading index of economic activity which confirm the success of the Howard government's responsible management of the Australian economy? Is the minister aware of any alternative policy approaches?

Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) —I thank my colleague Senator McGauran for that important question. It is always a pleasure to receive a question in this chamber and it is a particular pleasure to receive one from him.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Order! I would ask senators not to interject.

Senator KEMP —On Monday I was able to inform the Senate of the good news contained in the March quarter national accounts, which showed an annual economic growth of some 4.3 per cent. Importantly—and I think senators recognise this—this was the 12th consecutive quarter in which annualised growth was over four per cent. Interestingly enough, the last time this particular feat was achieved was not by the Keating government or the Hawke government; it was achieved between 1968 and 1971. It is a massive achievement. In other words, the economic management of the coalition government was made possible by a period of sustainably high growth in a low inflationary environment. Senator Sherry will be delighted with this—or perhaps he will not be delighted, because frankly the one thing that the Labor Party really hate is good news about the economy. You would have to say that the one thing they really do not like is good news about the economy. ยท

Senator KEMP —Very few Labor Party members have had the courage of Senator George Campbell and pointed out the very poor performance of real wages under the Hawke and Keating governments. Senator, you have many crosses against your name, but on that particular issue—your honesty—you get a tick for pointing out the shocking performance of former Labor governments in relation to real wages. Yesterday we received further evidence that the Australian economy is continuing to grow strongly. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute leading index of economic activity for April has been revised upwards. The index, which indicates the likely pace of economic activity six to nine months into the future, grew by about 4.2 per cent in the year to April. The press release notes the stunning 7.2 per cent surge in real profits. At the same time, we have seen other signs in the economy of how well it is growing. We have good news on virtually every economic front. I am sorry that the faces over there are so sombre and so sad, but let me just take you through the good news. I know that this depresses you, Senator Sherry, but let me take you through it: wages are rising, unemployment is falling, inflation remains low, growth is at record levels, household income is up, industrial production is up, real unit labour costs are down and profits are strong. This is great news and it reflects on the very strong management of the Howard government.

Senator Knowles —It is a stark contrast with Labor.

Senator KEMP —As my colleague Senator Knowles says, this contrasts very starkly with the performance of the Labor government. We all remember when we look at those Keating ministers across the table—Senator Faulkner, Senator Cook, Senator Bolkus and Senator Schacht—that these were the ministers who presided over the `recession we had to have'. So much damage was done to the economy and to businesses as a result of the appalling performance that these ministers in this chamber contributed to. (Time expired)

Senator McGAURAN —Will the minister for good news further develop his good news answer?

Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) —That is a very good question.

The PRESIDENT —That is scarcely a supplementary question.

Senator KEMP —I think it picks up the general thrust very well, Madam President. The good news, as I have said, is that the economy is performing so well. The bad news is the complete lack of any sign of responsibility within the Labor Party. We are seeing the Labor Party in total policy confusion. This is their secret—and I state this again—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator KEMP —No, I am sorry, the clock is ticking on, but I am going to go on. The Labor Party are trying to run scare campaigns on a tax which they now support. It is quite outrageous. It shows that the government have got their act together and the government believe in reform. It is a great source of pride to us that on 1 July we will be delivering a new tax system. Colleagues, we will be delivering, among other things, major tax cuts to Australian workers and Australian families. (Time expired)