Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Retail trade figures question government rhetoric

Download PDFDownload PDF

Peter Reith



The retail trade figures released in Canberra today question the Government's optimistic assertion that an economic recovery is unambiguously under way.

At best, the retail trade figures hold a mixed message for the Government.

The figures, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, show retail turnover rose by 2.9% in seasonally adjusted terms in the September quarter— the first rise since the September quarter 1990.

But the figures also showed that turnover in the retail sector dropped by 1.8% in the month of September (seasonally adjusted).

The drop in retail trade in September represents the most recent data available on retail turnover.

One should not read too much into one month's figures.

However, it is worth noting that some analysts have already suggested the rises recorded in retail trade in both July (2.2%) and August (1.4%) could have resulted from forced sales at discount prices, and the fall in September more accurately reflects the state of the retail sector.

Of course, it is too early to say that definitively.

But it is also too early to point at these figures as definitive evidence that the economy is already in recovery, as the

Government has done.

The 1.8% drop in retail trade in September coincided with a fall of 0.1% fall in private credit, and confirmation from the

Westpac-Melbourne Institute leading index that "the economy remains in deep recession".

Westpac's Chief Economist, Mr Bill Evans, says "the latest movement in the index indicates that the prospect of a moderate recovery in the first half of 1992 remains intact".

Mr Evans is talking about the "prospect" of a "moderate" recovery next year.

Today, he says, we remain in "deep recession".


Wha t '8 more, Mr Evans statest

"If, as we suspect, the recovery will not occur until early 1992, the recession will be the longest in post­ War history.■

The truth is that the messages on the Australian economy are mixed.

There is no definitive sign of recovery.

The Government is trying to jawbone a recovery because it

recognises, quite rightly, that it is in diabolical trouble politically.

Like some poor unfortunate lost in the desert, the Treasurer is constantly tormented by the image of an oasis of economic


Mr Kerin sees every economic indicator as a clear sign of

recovery when, in actual fact, all that is there is a lonely palm and some spinifex playing tricks with his eyes.

12 November 1991 Canberra 4





Contact: David Turnbull (06) 2774277 D125/91