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Tuesday, 27 February 2001
Page: 24467

Mr ROSS CAMERON (2:13 PM) —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer inform the House of any data indicating continued solid growth in the economy? How has the government's economic management contributed to raising the living standards of Australian families?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for Parramatta for the question. It makes me think of a fact which he shared with me when I was in his electorate some weeks ago that, when the government came to office in 1996, unemployment in Western Sydney was 14.9 per cent and that in December last year it was 3.9 per cent. I am not sure whether the member for Parramatta is solely responsible for the drop in unemployment from 14.9 per cent to 3.9 per cent, but members of the House would certainly agree that, being part of a government which has reduced interest rates and created jobs, he has made a stunning contribution in Western Sydney. We congratulate him for it.

The ABS company profit survey for the December quarter was released today, showing that, in seasonally adjusted terms, company profit before income tax, interest and depreciation increased 3.1 per cent in the December quarter. Company profits are now 9.7 per cent higher than a year ago. Growth in company profits before tax reflected increased profits across a number of industries—wholesale trade and retail trade were up 67.7 per cent in the quarter. Similarly, there were strong profits in the mining and construction sectors, the mining sector in particular helped along, one must observe, by its export orientation and a competitive exchange rate. The profit share of total factor income rose to 24.9 per cent in the September quarter of 2000—the highest level on record. That compares with an average under Labor of 22.3 per cent. Company profits, seasonally adjusted, showed good growth. The company profit share is the highest on record. As people know, mortgage interest rates are now as low as they have been in the last 30 years. For example, somebody with a mortgage of $100,000 is, because the interest rate was 10½ per cent when the government came to office and is now 7½ per cent, saving $3,000 per year. That is money in people's pockets.

I was interested to see a very astute observation reported on the AAP wire today:

Inflation is under control, there hasn't been a wages blowout, there hasn't been a mad credit binge, there hasn't been an asset price explosion and corporate profits are at historically high levels.

So said Michael Egan, the New South Wales Labor Treasurer when talking about the benefits of the current economic situation. We would recommend that some of the federal Labor Party go around for a tutorial with Mr Egan. Some of their claims, which are absolutely false, could be corrected by him. The profit which has been announced today, coming with continuing good economic management is delivering real outcomes for real people, reflected in better job opportunities.