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Thursday, 25 November 1993
Page: 3660

Senator MURPHY —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Can the minister inform the Senate whether there has been an improvement in investment in Australian industry and, if so, where such improvements are occurring?

Senator McMULLAN —I thank Senator Murphy for his question. I am sorry that people do not think investment in Australia is as important as distorting the child-care guidelines. Most Australians do consider investment to be important. It is actually a particularly timely question. The Australian Bureau of Statistics yesterday released its September quarter survey of private new capital expenditure. The survey shows that in the June quarter, private new capital expenditure grew by 2 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms. Those commentators who have expressed some scepticism as to the importance of these numbers have failed to look behind the aggregate figures and analyse their composition. It is important to note—and if the commentators had assessed the figures they would have noted—that investment in plant and equipment increased by a very solid 5 per cent. Expected new capital expenditure for 1993-94—that is, business expectations—has risen by 6 per cent since its already revised June quarter estimate.

  This follows a significant upward revision to the actual level of private investment in 1992-93. The rate of growth in the volume of plant and equipment investment has been revised upwards from 1.6 per cent to 5.4 per cent. People on the other side of the chamber are happy to make negative comments, but I have not heard them commenting on the upward revisions. This substantially improves the base on which this latest evidence of improving expectations is now building.

  The Treasurer has publicly noted on a number of occasions in recent days that it is now clear that the economy is on the move, even though the opposition would love to find ways of talking it down. This morning the Australian Bureau of Statistics released manufacturers' sales figures showing that these are estimated to have grown by 2 per cent in real seasonally adjusted terms in the September quarter. Expected sales for 1993-94 have been revised upwards by 4 per cent since the June survey. A pick-up in investment in new productive capacity is crucial to ensuring that the recovery, which is unequivocally under way, is sustained and that unemployment is reduced.

  I am pleased to see that at least one shadow minister is acknowledging that the business situation is improving. Opposition members do not want to hear about the fact that the economy is improving because they are very disappointed when it happens. They would love the situation where they could continue to say how bad it was but, unfortunately for them, things are improving.

Senator Knowles —Unemployment went up last month, didn't it?

Senator McMULLAN —No, it did not. These figures are therefore particularly encouraging, as are anecdotal reports that the opposition wants to interject about. The opposition wants to disguise the fact that, as well as employment growing, there are important positive announcements such as yesterday's press report—that the opposition would hate to recognise—that the electronics giant Siemens is planning to invest more than $100 million in new research and development in Australia. I have been waiting to hear the opposition welcome that, but I have not heard a word.

  Business is beginning to respond—this is just another sign of the positive response. Company profits figures released today for the September quarter show a further increase of five per cent—the ninth consecutive quarterly increase which has taken this series to its highest level since the series was commenced in 1985. So I think there is a broad range of statistics that builds on the welcome growth in employment which is being shown in the Australian economy. The significant trend in increased employment, which the opposition always fails to recognise; the increase in private new capital expenditure; the upward revision in the level of private investment; and the release of improvements in manufacture sales figures continue to confirm the improvement. These are not figures I am making up; these are all figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which is recognised internationally as amongst the best one or two statistical organisations in the world.