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Tuesday, 21 August 1984
Page: 14

Senator COOK —My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, is alien to the Opposition because it is about the economy. I ask the Minister whether he has seen the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released yesterday which, in the words of one newspaper:

. . . show a strong 14.5 per cent upward revision in the three months to July- August in private investment expectations for this financial year, suggesting mounting business confidence in the momentum of recovery.

Since the Minister has been careful in the past when commenting on the performance of the economy under the stewardship of the Hawke Government by drawing considered attention to the level of capital investment, will he now indicate what he sees is the significance of these figures? Taken together with other economic indicators, are these ABS statistics important on Budget eve?

Senator BUTTON —Of course, the statistics are important on Budget eve, and I have no doubt that they will be drawn attention to in the forthcoming week. In that circumstance far be it from me to go into any great detail about the figures to which Senator Cook referred. The Government is reasonably happy with most of the economic indicators now available to it.

Senator Watson —What about manufacturing?

Senator BUTTON —No, not entirely. I said: 'reasonably happy with most of the economic indicators available to it'. Then there is the Senator Watson parenthesis which everyone can read in Hansard. But the revised figures in relation to investment and to private investment are encouraging. Senator Cook accused me, by implication in his question, of being cautious in my reply to these questions in the past. I shall be so again; I am sorry to disappoint him. I simply say that the improvement in the investment figures is very encouraging, but I remind the Senate that it stems from a low base in 1982 and 1983 and a low base throughout the decade of the 1970s as compared with that of many other countries, so there is a long way to go in terms of encouraging increased investment in industry. But the signs of a favourable start to that process exist, and, although it is patchy in a sense, the Government is very encouraged by those signs which are supportive of all the other economic indicators to which Senator Cook referred.