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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2283


Mr ROBERT BROWN —The Treasurer would have noted today the release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics of the March quarter figures for the consumer price index. I ask the Treasurer to advise the House of the implications of those figures for Australia's inflation performance.


Mr KEATING —It is true, as my colleague suggests, that the bulletin released by the Australian Statistician today shows that the CPI increase for the March quarter was down to 1.9 per cent from an increase of 2.9 per cent for the December quarter-a fall of one full percentage point between quarters. Not only is this a very good number for Australia generally but it vindicates what the Government has been saying-that the effect of the size of the depreciation, its impact on prices and the speed of the impact is now being washed out of the system as quickly as it came into the system. The result is that the CPI is now falling markedly and quickly. This is pretty consistent with what the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said in its survey of about a month ago-that by the end of 1987-88 we could expect an inflation rate, on these numbers, of about 6 per cent. As we move through the year and the large figure for the September quarter 1986 falls out of the year 2 numbers and then the December quarter figure of 2.9 per cent falls out of the year 2 numbers, the year 2 inflation figure will start falling, reflecting the kind of fall which we have seen today.

Again I make the point that this is totally on track with the Government's forecast. It means the Government's strategy is working; that its wage policy is delivering the goods; and that Australia will be left with a much more competitive economy as a result of the short term costs of a burst of inflation which government policy has now addressed and is washing from the system. It is interesting that, despite the release of the CPI figures today, there have been no questions from the Opposition about the matter. Opposition members ask questions only when they think there is a bad number. If it is a good number it is public disinformation from the Statistician, but if it is a bad number the Opposition is not silent about it. This time it is a good number for Australia.

Those opposite are always looking for higher inflation and higher interest rates and anything which they think will help their miserable political chances. The fact is that the Government is looking for value, piloting Australia through a period of renewed competitiveness and prosperity and bringing the inflation rate down. This fall is very much on track and in the groove with government policy and must be a further disquieting fact to the lonely people on the other side of the House.