House debates

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Questions without Notice


2:28 pm

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Treasurer also. He's so popular! In light of today's national accounts figures, will the Treasurer inform the House how the Morrison government's economic plan has ensured that the Australian economy compares favourably with other global economies? Is the Treasurer aware of any alternative approaches?

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for North Sydney for his question. He has a background in local government, he is a strong supporter of Australia's tourism and transport sectors and he makes a valuable contribution in this place. Today's national accounts showed that the Australian economy continues to grow. We are in our 29th consecutive year of economic growth. No other developed nation has had a run like we have had. We got through the global financial crisis; we got through the Asian financial crisis. We got through the dotcom boom and bust. We have seen in today's national accounts a 0.5 per cent increase in growth for the December quarter. We have seen growth increase to 2.2 per cent through the year to the December quarter, compared to 1.8 per cent through the year to the September quarter. Household consumption contributed to growth today. We saw an increase in 13 out of the 17 separate categories in relation to consumption. Importantly, five out of the seven discretionary categories also saw an increase. We saw net exports contribute to the growth number today. We saw public final demand, government consumption, increase by 0.7 per cent in the quarter. Importantly, ownership transfer costs, which are a window into housing activity, were up by 12.3 per cent over the December quarter. And, for those members in this place with mining companies and mining sites across their electorates, we saw a five per cent increase in mining investment. And machinery and equipment increased in December by 0.9 per cent.

I was asked about international comparisons. I can inform the House that just yesterday the OECD singled out Australia and Germany as two countries which could respond to coronavirus with additional fiscal measures without endangering debt sustainability. We also know that the IMF, as recently as January, was saying that the Australian economy will grow faster this year and next than the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, France and Germany. Today, employment growth is 1.9 per cent. That's nearly twice the OECD average and nearly three times what we inherited from the Labor Party. We know that in the December quarter we saw growth greater than the OECD average—greater than the euro area, greater than Canada, greater than the United Kingdom.

According to the Reserve Bank governor, the fundamentals of the Australian economy are very good. Australians can be confident about their economic future. Only the Labor Party will talk down the Australian economy and only the coalition can be trusted to create more jobs and to lower taxes.

2:31 pm

Photo of Jim ChalmersJim Chalmers (Rankin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Treasurer. Given today's national accounts show that the economy grew at a slower pace last quarter that it did the one before and that debt has now more than doubled on his watch, why won't he admit that his inaction and incompetence on the economy means that Australia faces the substantial challenges of coronavirus from a position of economic weakness, not strength?

Mr Falinski interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The Treasurer will just pause. The member for Warringah will cease interjecting—sorry, not Warringah! The member for Mackellar will cease interjecting. And don't blame the member for Berowra next to you; that won't work! That certainly won't work.

2:32 pm

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't know why the member for Rankin seeks to disagree with the Governor of the Reserve Bank. I don't know why the member for Rankin never lets facts get in the way of a good headline. I don't know why the member for Rankin ignores the most recent numbers in today's national accounts, such as the fact that we have seen unemployment come down at the end of last year, in December, to 5.1 per cent. We saw it go down. We saw retail sales volumes have their biggest jump in two years. We saw, in the September quarter, household disposable income have its biggest increase in a decade, on the back of our tax cuts—and, if you combine it with the December quarter, you see that household disposable income had its biggest increase in 5½ years. We've seen the housing market stabilise. We've seen prices rise, but we've also seen clearance rates increase. And the Reserve Bank, through monetary policy and the initiatives that we have undertaken on the fiscal side, have also contributed to a stronger housing market. The reality is we have legislated through this parliament, against the will of those opposite, more than $300 billion of tax cuts. We have seen, on our watch, more than 1½ million new jobs being created. We have seen the first balanced budget in 11 years. We have seen the lowest welfare dependency in 30 years.

When we came to government, trade agreements covered 26 per cent of our two-way trading relationships. They now cover more than 70 per cent of our trading arrangements. And the relationship that we have struck and solidified with Indonesia through the free trade agreement with them will help create more jobs, just like the agreements that we struck with China, Korea, Japan and the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The reality is that we have delivered a stronger economy. We have delivered more jobs, we have delivered lower taxes, and Australia is in its 29th consecutive year of economic growth. We're one of only 10 developed economies in the world to have a AAA credit rating from the three leading credit-rating agencies. That is why the Australian people backed us at the last election—because they can trust us with the economy. The member for Rankin talked about the top end of town and ran around with the member for McMahon promising higher taxes. Only the coalition can deliver a stronger economy with lower taxes and more jobs.