Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says the latest growth figures show the Australian economy continues to defy those who want to talk it down, coming in slightly stronger than economists had predicted.
However, responding to the national accounts for the December quarter, he warned the impact of the bushfires will be felt in figures for the first three months of this year and that coronavirus’ effect is serious and ongoing.
The national accounts released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday showed the economy grew by 0.5 per cent in the December quarter, slightly above the 0.4 per cent forecast by economists.
Revisions to previous quarters also helped the annual growth rate step up 2.2 per cent from an originally reported 1.7 per cent as of the September quarter.
“This puts to rest the claim by some that the Australian economy was softening at the end of last year,” Mr Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra.
“The Australian economy remains resilient and continues to defy all those who seek to talk it down.”
However, the annual growth rate does remain below its long-term average of 2.7 per cent.
The treasurer said the data shows the bushfires did not have a significant effect on the national accounts in the December quarter, even though it had a devastating impact on communities.
“Most of the economic effect of the bushfires is expected to be felt in the March quarter,” he said.
“The impact of the coronavirus is serious and is on going and is affecting economies the world over.”
The treasurer, prime minister and the finance minister along with officials are putting together a package to support business and jobs through the COVID-19 crisis.
Mr Frydenberg said he and officials from Treasury will be talking to the International Monetary Fund later on Wednesday for an update on the spread of the coronavirus and its economic impact.
“Once that call is completed tonight, Treasury will finalise tomorrow morning their estimate of the impact on the March quarter and the Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy will talk to that number at Senate estimates,” he said.
Dr Kennedy and his Treasury team are due to face the Senate economics committee on Thursday morning.