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Thursday, 9 June 1994
Page: 1615

Senator NEAL —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to a report in today's press about the forecast by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, which predicts high growth rates for economies in the Pacific rim, and the OECD economic outlook, which forecasts higher growth in the OECD economies. What opportunities does this present for Australia?

Senator COOK —Some weeks back we had the quarterly accounts, which showed strong economic growth in the Australian economy. Earlier this week we had a report from the Business Council of Australia on a survey of business expectations, which shows that the Australian business community also looks forward to strong economic growth and high investment. We now have in today's Australian Financial Review a report of surveys by the OECD and the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, both of which indicate that the world economic recovery is strong on foot and that, extrapolating from that, Australia is in a leading position in that recovery.

  Both these forecasts reinforce the good news we have had for the Australian economy. The OECD forecasts indicate that the outlook for the developed countries is brightening. The forecast growth rate for OECD countries is 2.6 per cent in 1994—up from the forecast of 2.1 per cent for 1994 made six months ago. The forecast for next year is an acceleration to 2.9 per cent—up again on last December's forecast of 2.7 per cent for 1995. World trade is expected to grow by 6.7 per cent in 1994 and accelerate to 7.2 per cent growth next year, 1995. The PECC, the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, forecasts that 18 Pacific rim countries will grow at an average of 4.2 per cent—up from 3.8 per cent last year. This quickening growth is being driven by the locomotive economy of China and by tourism within the region.

  These figures indicate that Australia has a lot to look forward to. Australia, already growing at an annual rate of five per cent, is the envy of the OECD world. These figures that I have announced indicate that the prospects for Australia are even better now than they were before. It confirms the correctness of the government's moves to internationalise the Australian economy and to generate closer links with the fast growing countries of the Asia-Pacific region. This is a route to increased living standards and fuller employment for all Australians.

  The underlying message that comes from these figures is clear: consumers and business should be even more confident than before about the prospects for the Australian economy. These figures indicate that, if our industries continue to work on increased competitiveness, demand for our exports is sure to increase and employment will increase markedly as well. All this is laying the foundation for strong employment growth in the period ahead.

  Earlier in question time we heard the answer on today's employment figures from the Minister representing the Minister for Employment, Education and Training, Senator Schacht. Today's labour market figures show that, in seasonally adjusted terms, employment grew by 0.4 per cent in May and that employment is now at the highest level since September 1990.

  Australia must now continue its efforts to make industry even more competitive, reduce barriers to competition, allow greater flexibility in markets, boost productivity through the settings on enterprise bargaining, and raise efficiency in government business enterprises. Given these figures from the OECD and PECC, the outlook for the Australian economy is very positive. Australia has the skills and abilities to build on the advantages we have now and to create even greater prosperity for itself.