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Tuesday, 5 June 1984
Page: 2482


Senator GILES —Has the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer been drawn to the national accounts figures released today? Is the Government satisfied with the performance of the Australian economy revealed by these figures?


Senator WALSH —I am not sure that the Government is entirely satisfied because it would like the figures to be even better. The figures which came out in the national accounts today are certainly the best economic news that Australia has had for a very long time. They show that the non-farm product, leaving right out of consideration the effects of the drought both during and since, in the last quarter has gone up by almost 2 1/2 per cent. If that rate were sustained, the annual figure would be more than 10 per cent. In the three quarters from June last year to March this year non-farm product has gone up by 7.4 per cent, again showing an annual rate of 10 per cent. So the rate of growth in the last three quarters has been remarkably consistent. The total gross domestic product, which includes farm product, increased by 2.3 per cent between the December quarter and the March quarter. This means that the total GDP, which includes the changes in the farm sector, has risen by more than 9 per cent in the nine months since June 1983. That growth rate gives the Government a good deal of pleasure and it is, I am sure, appreciated by the population at large. It stands out in marked contrast to the situation which we inherited.

In the last year in which the Fraser Government's economic policies reigned there were three consecutive quarters in which product not only failed to increase but actually declined. Growth rates were negative for three consecutive quarters and for the year as a whole. Between June 1982 and June 1983 total output actually fell by about 2 per cent. That was the only time in more than 20 years that any Australian Government had presided over an entire year in which output actually fell. That fall in output was associated with the highest levels of unemployment which had been known since the Great Depression of the 1930s, with inflation roaring away at above 10 per cent and rising, and unemployment also rising above 10 per cent, accompanied by the highest interest rates which had ever been known.

It is interesting to observe in this morning's Age the fact that now that Mr Fraser is out of government he has a policy. It was described in the Age this morning as a policy without a party, in contrast to the Sinclair-Peacock Opposition which comprises parties without a policy. It is a pity that Mr Fraser did not devise policies when he was in government instead of after he lost government. It is an even greater pity that the present Sinclair-Peacock Opposition has not been able to devise any policies in opposition.