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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21473

Mr HAASE (2:02 PM) —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Would the Prime Minister inform the House of the results of the Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer sentiment, which was released this morning?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Kalgoorlie for his question and I can inform the House that the Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer sentiment rose by 1.5 per cent in October to 117.8. This is the highest level of the index since July 1994. The index has risen by almost 21 per cent since March of this year and is 14.7 per cent above its level of one year ago. According to Westpac, today's result reflects recent positive developments such as the low unemployment rate, improvement in share market conditions and the strong business confidence outlook.

As the Treasurer reminded the House on Monday, Australia is currently enjoying a concurrent combination of unemployment below six per cent and inflation below three per cent. That is the first time since 1968 that those two achievements have occurred concurrently. It is a remarkable tribute to the economic management of this country over the last 7½ years that the Treasurer should be able to report to the parliament that, for the first time since 1968, we have the golden economic double of inflation below three per cent and unemployment below six per cent. That is a golden economic double, and the Westpac consumer sentiment index drives home the message that this country is in good economic hands.

Over the last 7½ years we have not only seen inflation and unemployment driven down. We see that the average home buyer pays $450 a month less on their mortgage than they did in 1996. We see real wages having risen by somewhere in the order of 10 per cent versus about 2½ per cent in 13 years under Labor. We see an enormous lift in the number of apprenticeships in the country. Wherever you go you find evidence of quality economic management, and the Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index is the latest piece of independent evidence of the good economic conditions that Australia is now enjoying.