National accounts: Australian economy bounces back

Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison

The Australian economy has avoided a recession, bouncing back to positive territory in the final three months of 2016.

The economy expanded by 1.1 per cent in the December quarter, faster than expected by economists, after a shock 0.5 per cent decline in the previous three months.

The annual rate lifted to 2.4 per cent from 1.8 per cent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said today's figures were a positive sign but Australia could not be complacent if it was to retain its AAA credit rating.

"We cannot base our budgets and economic plans on the volatility of commodity prices," the Treasurer said.

"We must take the necessary steps to keep expenditure under control structurally, to boost investment, to maintain the AAA credit rating by following this path and to ensure that we're able to sustainably fund necessary government services, not just now but in the future by ensuring we deal with these difficult decisions the Government is making.

"Today's results were a positive sign that our economy maintains solid momentum in our 26th year of annual economic growth.

"But as the last quarter reminded us, you can never take anything for granted and the Government has doubled down on its efforts."

The Treasurer also used a press conference in Canberra responding to the figures to push for the Government's proposed welfare reforms.

Mr Morrison said the welfare system was "an important safety net" but was "not there as a broad-base cash ATM".

"What we're working to do is get that under control," he said.

"Eight out of 10 Australians go to work everyday to pay the welfare bill of this country for their income taxes."

He also took a swipe at Labor MPs who had voted against the omnibus bill in the lower house.

The main contributions to growth came from household consumption and government spending, the data released on Wednesday showed.

Ahead of the report, Treasury secretary John Fraser told a senate committee the fundamentals of the economy are "sound but finely balanced".

But as last year's contraction showed, it remained sensitive to shocks.

Mr Fraser also said the economy had been generating enough jobs to maintain a stable unemployment rate.

"But there is still spare capacity in the labour market," he said.

The economy was still working through a complex transition away from mining investment and towards broader growth in an uncertain international economic climate.

"In this environment, we should ensure we are in the best possible position to benefit from an upswing (in the global economy), in particular by maintaining our openness to trade and investment," he said in Canberra.

Topics:  business economy editors picks

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