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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22706

Mrs HULL (2:14 PM) —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer inform the House of the results of recent surveys of small business conditions in my electorate of Riverina and across Australia? What do they indicate about the importance of sound and disciplined economic policy?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for Riverina for her question and her interest in small business. Today the Sensis Business Index—Small and Medium Enterprises was released—it was previously known as the Yellow Pages index—and it revealed that the confidence of small and medium sized businesses continues to increase, taking it to the highest level since 1994. Because the honourable member comes from Riverina she would know and be interested in the fact that regional businesses in New South Wales were the most confident, having recorded a confidence level of 75 per cent—no doubt influenced by good parliamentary representation in New South Wales. Looking ahead, some 83 per cent of respondents believed the economy will be performing as well or better than now, and perceptions of the Australian economy, according to this small business survey, are at the highest level since the index commenced. So small business is reporting expectations of continued economic growth and strong confidence, and expectations are at the highest level since the index began.

I am sure both sides of the House would welcome the fact that the economy is strong and that small business is recording that kind of confidence. That backs up the ACCI small business survey, which was released last week, reporting that general business conditions have improved markedly, and that is consistent with the fact that the Australian economy continues to grow. We grew faster than any of the G7 economies in 2001-02. The Economist predicts that the Australian economy will be the fastest growing in 2003 and the second-fastest, incidentally, in 2004 as the US economy recovers. But we will not be disappointed by that: a strong US recovery will lead to a strong global recovery.

Strong economic management does not happen by chance. It is not the outcome of chaos theory, which seems to be the guiding principle behind the Labor Party's economic attempts these days. It comes from disciplined and stable management in the economic portfolio, rather than the chaos theory management that the opposition seem to prefer. That is the way the coalition will continue, with sound, disciplined, purposeful economic reform, which provides confidence for small business and jobs for more Australians.