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Wednesday, 27 March 1985
Page: 883

Senator GILES —Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen the most recent figures from the Australian Statistician on retail sales? Do these figures indicate anything about the likelihood of achieving the Budget forecasts on consumer spending?

Senator WALSH —For the three months ended January, retail sales, which it is true had been sluggish for a considerable time, were 8.1 per cent higher than they had been for the corresponding period of the previous year or after the implicit price deflator had been applied, represented an increase in real terms of 3 per cent or just above. That piece of good news was supplemented today with some very good figures regarding motor vehicle registrations which have, for the three months ended February, been running at an annual rate of very close to 700,000 a year, which is almost up to the peak level which they hit early in 1975. They are almost running at an all-time record level. After running through most of the years of the Fraser Government at a level of somewhere between 550,000 and 580,000 they are now running at an annual rate of almost 700,000.

Senator Button —We are going well.

Senator WALSH —This is due, as Senator Button suggests, to the growing confidence in the community. This Government is managing the economy very well and the people have come to realise it. Those figures on retail sales suggest that the Budget time forecast for private consumption expenditure, which from memory was 2.75 per cent, is likely to be exceeded. In addition to that, since the National Economic Summit Conference was held in April 1983, some 360,000 new jobs have been created and the rate of unemployment has fallen to 8.3 per cent, despite some increase in the participation rate. Perhaps most gratifying of all is the recent surge in private investment. In the December quarter of 1984, compared with the December quarter of 1983, investment in real terms had increased by 9.4 per cent. The estimate for 1985-86 is some 24 per cent higher than the corresponding estimate for 1984-85. So, both in general and in the specifics, the answer is yes, the Budget time expectations of growth in consumption sales are being more than realised. Indeed all the economic indicators of growth, unemployment, investment and so on show that all the Government's expectations have been equalled or exceeded.