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Wednesday, 6 June 2001
Page: 27396

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY (2:21 PM) —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer advise the House of the results of the ACCI-Westpac survey of industrial trends for the June quarter released yesterday?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for her question. I expected to be asked by the Labor Party about that survey yesterday, but I am pleased that she has picked up that I had not been. The ACCI-Westpac industrial trends survey for the June quarter showed that business confidence recovered sharply in June. Of most significance was the sharp increase in new orders and output. There was a 100 per cent turnaround from a negative six to a positive six in respect of output and, consistent with this increase in new orders and output, profit expectations firmed. Seventy per cent of respondents reported improved or similar conditions for the June quarter compared with the March quarter.

As we have seen in the national accounts, the profit growth in the March quarter and profit as a share of the economy were very strong. A positive turnaround in business sentiment was assisted by strength seen in exports. A strong turnaround in exports was reported in the June quarter with a more than doubling of the proportion of respondents reporting a rise. Eighty-seven per cent of respondents expect exports to improve or to remain the same over the next three months, and that will be supported by the fact that, under the government's tax reforms, we no longer tax Australian exports. This is of enormous benefit to rural Australia. Rural Australia, a part of our great export industries, is now exporting to the world under the same terms and conditions as everybody else allowed their exporters to go out into the world—that is, tax free. Under the Australian Labor Party's system of wholesale sales taxes, which cascaded into businesses, Australian exporters were cheated. They did not have the same opportunities.

We have some of our friends from New Zealand in the gallery today. New Zealand back in the 1980s had the courage to reform its taxation system. I think it was done by a Labor government in New Zealand, and it was supported by the National Party on a bipartisan basis. People from the New Zealand parliament would be interested to know that there is one political party left in the free world that opposes a value added tax, giving preference to narrow indirect wholesale sales taxes on goods. And that political party is not based in Swaziland; it is somewhere in this chamber. It is the last political party in the free world to prefer wholesale sales taxes on an indirect goods base rather than a value added tax. If you believe them, 150 countries in the world have got it wrong and the only people who know the truth govern the Labor Party and Swaziland. The truth of the matter is that even the Labor Party do not actually take that view. The truth of the matter is that they are just a pack of opportunists who want this government to do all of the hard work and then hope to slide into office and to take the advantage of it.

I was asked about the ACCI-Westpac survey for June, which was very positive. It is at odds with the surveys of Dun and Bradstreet. Dun and Bradstreet, which the Labor Party likes to rely on, has produced the most negative survey. It has done as much as it could to contribute to negative sentiment on a regular basis—along with the Labor Party—over recent quarters, including the claim which was made on the 7.30 Report on 13 March 2001 by a spokesman from Dun and Bradstreet that we were likely to have three negative quarters. Of course, that was picked up by the Leader of the Opposition who, on 14 March 2001, said, `This is an Australian home-grown recession.' During the March quarter, on 14 March, when the Australian economy was growing at 1.1 per cent, he made that claim. We now know that in the quarter ending 31 March the economy grew at 1.1 per cent, which for the March quarter would be the strongest of any of the major economies of the world. You were out there making those claims on 14 March 2001. You know you were irresponsible. You know you did it for political advantage. You were trying to get negative sentiment. You were trying to have self-fulfilling prophesies. You were not acting in the best interests of the Australian people. You have no commitment to their interests—and you are not fit to govern in Australia!

Mr SPEAKER —I remind the Treasurer of his obligation to address his remarks through the chair.