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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1210

Senator RICHARDSON —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Minister aware of a report in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald which claimed that according to a survey conducted by the Melbourne University Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research and by the Morgan research people, consumer confidence and optimism are at an all time high? Can the Minister confirm that this confidence about personal finance is beginning to show up in recent retail sales figures and, further, does this survey put paid to the claim by the Opposition that the average Australian is $23 a week worse off under Labor?

Senator WALSH —I am aware of the survey to which Senator Richardson referred. Indeed, I think an assessment of it and a graph was published in the morning Press. As Senator Richardson stated, it does show that consumer confidence and optimism is at an all time high. He also asked whether this confidence is beginning to show up in retail sales. The answer to that is also yes. In the three-month period ending July, retail sales were 7.3 per cent higher than they were for the same period of the previous year. That, along with a wealth of other evidence, puts the lie to the claim by the Opposition that the average Australian is $23 a week worse off since this Government was elected. I return to the survey which was the subject of the question. Apart from the fact that the level of consumer confidence and optimism in September is higher than it has ever been in any other September-there has been a seasonal pattern over the last several years in consumer confidence, which tends to fluctuate throughout the year; September is historically a fairly low month-this is the highest level of confidence in September that has shown up in this survey over a 10-year period, and the gap between the September average and the 1984 September figure is greater than the gap for any other month.

The final point I make is that consumer confidence hit an all time low in November 1982-an indexed figure of 75 compared with the figure of 116 recorded in the most recent survey in September of this year. The November 1982 figure, of course, followed immediately upon the presentation of the 1982 Budget by the discredited former Treasurer. Immediately on the election of the Labor Government in March 1983 the consumer confidence index figure rose to 97.4 per cent and has been, I think it is fair to say, on a steadily rising trend ever since.