Finance Minister Mathias Cormann believes Australia’s economy is heading in the right direction, despite some global and domestic risks and a flatlining jobless rate.
Labor argues the government is being “complacent” about the economy, citing significant losses on the Australian stock market as further evidence the economy is in trouble.
The unemployment rate remained at 5.2 per cent in July for the fourth consecutive month, despite 41,000 people joining the workforce.
Underemployment – which reflects the number of people who want more hours they are given – also nudged 0.2 per cent higher to 8.4 per cent.
“We are heading in the right direction,” Senator Cormann told reporters in Perth on Thursday.
“We are facing some risks in the global economy and in the domestic economy.
“We will continue to do everything we can to address them appropriately so that all Australians have the best possible opportunity to get ahead.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said he has “huge concerns” about the economy, accusing the government of not having a plan to get things moving again.
“We have across the board negative economic figures,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“Just today, we’ve seen the Australian stock market this morning fall by some two per cent. We have economic growth that was downgraded last week by the Reserve Bank.”
Senator Cormann didn’t want to offer commentary on the stock market, which slumped after a major sell-off on Wall Street.
“We are focused on the economy and our economic performance. The fundamentals of the Australian economy are strong,” he said.
He pointed to Australia’s triple-A credit rating and employment growth of 2.6 per cent being above the long-term average of 1.8 per cent.
Mr Albanese suggested increasing welfare payments for job-seekers could also boost the economy.
Reserve Bank deputy governor Guy Debelle said on Thursday that Australians’ low spending is among the biggest domestic challenges to the economy.
Slow growth in disposable income has contributed to the trend and softer jobs figures could pose a risk in the near-future.
“Further out, the risks to the outlook are more evenly balanced,” he told a Sydney audience.
The national gender pay gap fell marginally to 14 per cent over the past six months, a difference of $241.50 per week for full-time workers.
Workplace Gender Equality Agency director Libby Lyons said she would have liked to see the gap reduced further.
“Although it is good that the gender pay gap has declined slightly and remains stable, it shows that we still need to have more Australian employers taking action on gender equality and addressing pay equity,” she said.