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Wednesday, 1 June 1994
Page: 1071

Senator ZAKHAROV —My question is directed to the Minister for Small Business, Customs and Construction, and it refers to the release yesterday of the Yellow Pages Small Business Index which shows that job creation in the small business sector has surged in the three months to April. Is the minister able to provide further information on the survey results and do the results provide an indication of the strength of the economic recovery?

  Opposition senators interjecting

Senator SCHACHT —Already members of the opposition cannot stand to hear more good news for small business. They are already moaning and groaning at the idea that there will be more good information for the small business sector. Yes, Mr President, yesterday the Yellow Pages index—which has very rapidly in 12 months become a major and credible source of information about small business activity—released the results of its survey to the end of April. The survey covered over 1,000 small businesses in the metropolitan and regional areas of Australia employing fewer than 20 people in areas covering manufacturing, construction, building, wholesale, retail, finance, property and business services, recreation and personnel—a very broad based survey.

  The survey found that employment rose by 2.1 per cent in the period to April compared with a one per cent rise in the three months to January. In fact, the latest figures show that employment has been rising steadily since June last year when the first Yellow Pages index was compiled. This means that a minimum of 65,000 jobs were created in the nine months to April of this year. According to the index economic adviser, Dr Marsden, the combined 3.1 per cent employment growth over the past six months accounted for half the total rise in employment recorded by the ABS.

  On the sales side, one-third of small businesses surveyed recorded significant sales increases to the three months to the end of April 1994—a significant strengthening on the previous three months. According to Dr Marsden, it was only a year ago that a meagre seven per cent of those surveyed were able to report that their sales had risen. This is a clear indication of a positive turnaround in the economy.

  The weighted average sales increase in the three months to April was 6.1 per cent compared with only 0.6 per cent for the previous period to January. Confidence is also up very strongly. More than 50 per cent of those surveyed say that the economy is growing; around 60 per cent say that the economy will be better a year from now, which of course is very bad news for the opposition, but very good news for Australia; and 75 per cent of small business owners are confident of their own prospects. Profitability continues to be recorded by more small businesses; 39 per cent expect increased sales in the period from May to July.

  So all round, Mr President, the only people in Australia who do not want to hear about this good news for the small business sector are the troglodytes in the opposition who think that any good news is bad news for their political prospects. We also want to point out that Dr Marsden says that the survey also found that there was an expectation that capital expenditure will increase in manufacturing, finance and business services over the next three months.

  In the areas about which the opposition has been harping, the survey indicates that there will be business investment—again, a further good sign for the economy.

Senator Vanstone —We've been hearing this for a long time.

Senator SCHACHT —Senator Vanstone will hear it for a lot longer. For somebody who had to put an ice pack on her head for half an hour before she had the courage to tell Dr Hewson she was not going to vote for him, I find it surprising that Senator Vanstone should make any comment at all. As someone on the front bench with a frozen brain, she has no right to make any comment at all.