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Wednesday, 11 November 1998
Page: 107

Mrs DRAPER —Mr Speaker, may I take this opportunity as a fellow South Australian to congratulate you on your election to your new position. My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the recent performance of the Australian economy, particularly in light of the difficult international economic environment?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I preface my answer by congratulating the member for Makin on her return to this House. One of the reasons why the member for Makin performed so well in the last election campaign was the very strong state of the Australian economy. One of the proudest boasts of my government is how well the Australian economy has performed, despite difficult international economic cir cumstances. That is not a partisan political boast. It is in fact verified by independent authority. Recently, the Treasury, in its Economic Roundup , said:

The current approach to macro-economic policy and the impact of micro-economic reform have strengthened the stabilisation mechanisms in the Australian economy, making it more resilient to disturbances such as the economic and financial crisis in Asia.

Even more so, the Reserve Bank, in its semi-annual statement on monetary policy, had this to say:

The Australian economy has weathered the first year and a half of a very difficult international environment exceptionally well and the settings of macro-economic policy have made an important contribution to the favourable outcome.

That is bankspeak for saying that the government has done a tremendous job in getting the budget back into order. If we had not taken those decisions, we would not have had the lower interest rates. We would not have been able to look the rest of the world in the eye and say that we have got an outstanding economic performance in very difficult international economic circumstances.

It is further emphasised by some preliminary figures released by the ABS this morning which showed that the economy grew by a revised 4.4 per cent in 1997-98, up from the four per cent rate previously reported. In other words, a more accurate measure showed that it has gone up by 4.4 per cent. This has all happened despite the 2½ years of the Labor Party talking down the Australian economy.

If there is one thing that provides tragic faces opposite, it is good news about the Australian economy. If there is one thing they do not like, it is interest rates going down, inflation going down, the budget being back in surplus and the Australian economy performing very strongly by world standards. I want to thank the Australian people for the contribution that they have made to the fact that this country, to its great credit and to its great pride, has been able to weather the Asian economic storm far better than many expected, in a way that rebounds greatly to the credit of the Australian people and, may I say, to the government that I am proud to lead.