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Thursday, 16 October 2003
Page: 21642

Mr PROSSER (2:07 PM) —My question is directed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer inform the House of recent indications of household wealth and economic strength?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for Forrest for his question. I can inform the House that yesterday the Australian Treasury and the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the annual data for private sector wealth in Australia, which showed that, as at June 2003, private sector wealth in Australia stood at $4.325 trillion, increasing by $553 billion in the year to June or by 14.7 per cent.

According to this series, since March 1996 private sector wealth has increased by $2.2 trillion or 109 per cent; that is, the wealth of Australians has increased by 109 per cent since March 1996, an average increase of 10.7 per cent per annum. Since 1996 Australians on average have doubled their wealth. All members of the House will welcome the fact that Australians have had an increase in the value of their assets and that the net wealth of Australian households has increased by so much.

Consumer sentiment was released yesterday, which is at a nine-year high. That is consistent with the fact that unemployment is now at a 13-year low. In addition to that, the retail turnover has been very strong in the last year. Notwithstanding the fact that wealth has increased for Australians on average over the last year by such a large amount—by 14.7 per cent—there are those in Australia who are still doing it tough, particularly in rural Australia where they have been affected by drought.

There are those who are still locked out of the labour market because we do not give them a go. We should not forget those people who have been affected by the labour market laws in this country which still keep people who want to work out of work. That is why this government intends to proceed with its reform program. The results for average wealth and incomes in Australia are quite clear but we need to go further. The government's program needs to be implemented to give those who have not shared in all of that prosperity a better go in the future.