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Monday, 23 August 1999
Page: 7478

Senator COONAN —My question without notice is to the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Kemp. Will the Assistant Treasurer inform the Senate about recent business surveys regarding the Australian economy? Will the minister also inform the Senate of the results reflected in recent economic figures published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics?

Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) —I thank Senator Coonan for that important question. One comment that I think can be made about the Australian economy at the moment is that we have an economy that is strong. Recent employment statistics show that there are now more Australians in work than at any other time in our history. In fact, almost 8.8 million Australians, out of the recently confirmed figure of 19 million, now have a job. This means that almost half a million more new jobs have been created in the 3½ years that we have been in office. Trend employment in Australia has now risen for 26 consecutive months. In July 1999 Australia's unemployment rate was at its lowest level since July 1990 at some seven per cent. Teenage unemployment was at its lowest level since October 1990.

Senator Quirke —Who was in power then?

Senator KEMP —Senator Quirke asks who was in power prior to this government coming to office. It is clear that Senator Quirke's government was in power, Mr Keating's government, and of course that was the government that created the recession that we had to have.

We must, of course, remember that economic growth is the major determinant of employment growth. In Australia our economy grew by about 4.8 per cent over the year to the March quarter. That is faster growth than America and faster than the OECD average. I will quote a comment of the Prime Minister of Singapore about Australia. He said:

In many parts of Asia we were concentrating on fast growth but forgetting the fundamentals.

He went on to say:

Australia didn't, and is now winning the race.

I would like to now inform the Senate of some recent survey results for the June 1999 quarter. The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics company profits survey shows that company profits have grown by 10.3 per cent through the year. This is good news. Obviously, the more profitable companies are the more money they will have to grow and to expand staff numbers, increasing employment levels.

In the June quarter figures, average weekly earnings are also worth noting. For all employees the June quarter shows 3.3 per cent growth in average weekly earnings above the inflation level. I think Senator George Campbell in the past pointed out that real wages in fact fell for a number of years during the terms of the Hawke and Keating governments, and it is very encouraging to see that, under this government, under the sound policies that this government is pursuing, real wages are rising.

Surveys also show that business confidence is high. Low inflation, low unemployment, low interest rates, high growth, a surplus budget and a new tax system as part of our major reform agenda show that this government has its eye fixed on the main game, its eye fixed on making sure that Australia has an economy which can create the jobs for our young people into the future.