Politics Analysis

Contrary to Coalition claims, business is booming across Australia

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The Albanese Government has been doing a commendable job of bringing Australian business back from the Coalition doldrums (Image by Dan Jensen)

The latest facts on business turnover from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) refute the Government’s critics, as Alan Austin reports.

*Also listen to the audio version of this article on Spotify HERE.

IT MAY BE too soon to applaud the Albanese Government for transforming Australia’s sclerotic economy into a socialist paradise for workers which is simultaneously brimming with opportunities for courageous capitalists. But we are now getting an idea of the direction the economy is taking. So far, pretty impressive.

Construction expanding

Construction turnover across Australia has surged 17.6% through the 12 months from May 2022 to May 2023 from 112.5 index points to 132.3. This is the ninth consecutive month that construction has shown an annual lift above 11.0%. That’s according to last week’s ABS analysis titled ‘Monthly Business Turnover Indicator’.

This is the first run of nine months with construction turnover surging at that level since this ABS series began in 2010.

Measuring the business environment

This series is an experiment the Statistics Bureau has been conducting since October 2021, using turnover data from the Australian Taxation Office’s business activity statements collected since January 2010. It uses 13 of the 19 main industry classifications accepted internationally, using seasonally adjusted numbers. Index values are produced for each month for all industry sectors so we can observe changes between any two time periods.

The base month, where the index values are 100.0, is July 2019. More detail on the methodology is available here.

This IA analysis focuses on the full 12 months since Australia’s change of government in May 2022. We examine annual shifts – that is, From May 2022 to May 2023 – to smooth out erratic month-to-month fluctuations.

Through that year, turnover increased in 12 of 13 published industries, mining being the only exception. See chart, below.

(Data source: ABS)

Professional, scientific and technical services

This sector increased by 14.2%, up from 107.7 index points to 123.0. This is the best annual rise since April 2018. It extends the run of increases above 8% to 22 months. That is the first time this has been achieved since this series began.

Administration and support advance

Turnover in the administrative and support services sector reached 112.4 points in May this year, up 12.2% on the previous May, which registered 100.2. That was barely above the July 2019 index of 100.

This sector suffered badly through the Coalition period, falling as low as 70.4 in early 2020. In fact, for the entire 19 months from March 2020 to September 2021, the index remained below 85.0. In contrast, the index has been above 100 for all 12 months of Albanese’s year, setting new all-time highs in seven of them.

Accommodation and food services well up

This sector rose 11.1% over the year to May, from 120.3 index points to 133.7. This extends to 16 months the streak of annual increases greater than 10%. This is the first time this has happened since the series began.

Robust retail trade

Retail turnover increased by 4.4% in May over May 2022, up from 135 index points to 141.0. Although this is a modest percentage rise, this is the second-highest retail index number on record, just shy of the all-time high of 141.8 achieved last August.

Of all 13 sectors in this ABS series, retail has now had the strongest increase since the base of 100.0 in July 2019.

The Albanese Government has kept the index above the level it inherited in May 2022. That is commendable given the appalling history of retail through most of the Coalition period, as analysed here, here and here.

Mining returns to normal

While the decrease of 132.5% in mining turnover looks problematic, this simply reflects a return to normal export trade after exceptionally high turnovers between March last year and March this year. The current turnover index of 137.6 is well below the peak of 170.3 in June last year, but it remains the second-highest of all 13 sectors, behind only retail. Mining is still booming.

The rest of the economy

The sectors the ABS has not analysed individually in this series include:

  1. agriculture, forestry and fishing;
  2. financial and insurance services;
  3. rental, hiring and real estate services;
  4. public administration and safety;
  5. education and training; and
  6. healthcare and social assistance.

Most of these appear to be surging also, as the 15.8% lift in total annual turnover of all these sectors attests.

Caveats and commentary

We should note that turnover increases should be expected in normal times as the economy expands with natural population growth. What is remarkable here are the rates of the increases and that they extend across the economy.

Some of the poor economic indicators in 2020 and 2022 were due to the global COVID pandemic. The mismanagement of the economy by the previous Coalition predated that.

Overall, the results of this ABS analysis offer a strong endorsement of current economic management, especially when read alongside other files on profits, jobs, wages, the budget surplus and debt.

These outcomes expose the ineptitude or malignant lies – take your pick – of the big media corporations which asserted before the May 2022 Federal Election that the Coalition was the better economic manager. It isn’t and never has been.

Those media are still falsifying the record. An article in The Australian last week reporting these exceptionally positive ABS numbers was headed gloomily: ‘Mining turnover plunges as commodity prices fall’.

This ABS data also destroys the narrative of Opposition Leader Peter Dutton who claimed Labor lost last Saturday’s Fadden by-election because of its economic mismanagement.

Dutton said:

“People are hurting at the moment and the Labor economic experiment is failing Australians.”

Business leaders now banking the profits from the impressive lifts in turnover – along with their employees, shareholders and customers – should all know this is quite false.

*This article is also available on audio here:

Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.

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