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Tuesday, 22 February 1977

Mr LYNCH - I shall not do what the honourable member for Oxley did, that is, to multiply it by two. As the honourable gentleman who interjected ought to be aware, that that was done is very much on the record. I welcome a question from this side of the House. The absence of questions concerning the consumer price index figures for the December quarter from the Opposition is rather surprising. The figures which were released at 12 noon today show that the marked downward trend in inflation during 1976 has been consolidating. The Opposition had difficulty in attending to these matters during its period in office.

I am prepared to say to the honourable gentleman opposite that on any basis of assessment this is the case: First of all, after adjustment for the effects of changes made to Medibank, the consumer price index increased by 2.8 per cent during the December quarter, compared with 6.3 per cent for the December quarter of 1975. Secondly, after adjustment for the Medibank changes, the index increased at a rate of 10.8 per cent during the 12 months to the end of 1976, compared with an increase under the former Administration of 16.7 per cent over the 12 months to December 1975. Thirdly, if one seeks further evidence- I do not mind comparisons on any basis that the Opposition cares to bring forwardif one adjusts for government taxes and charges and for the effects of Medibank, the index rose at an annual rate of 10.2 per cent over the last half of 1976, compared with a rise of 14.3 per cent over the last half of the previous year. In short, on any accepted basis for comparison, the figures for the 12 months to the end of the December quarter or for the 6 months to the end of the December quarter expressed at an annual rate indicate that the underlying rate of inflation in this country is now significantly less than it was 12 months ago.

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