Treasurer Joe Hockey concedes he is a little envious of New Zealand’s falling jobless rate and its budget is coming into surplus this year.
Joe Hockey frequently admits he’s a little bit jealous of our cousins across the ditch, in an economic sense at least.
The treasurer’s green eye probably went an even deeper shade of emerald after New Zealand’s latest employment figures showed their jobless rate tumbled to a five-year low of 5.6 per cent in the June quarter from a revised 5.9 per cent previously.
The best we can hope for is Australia’s jobless rate not reaching 6.25 per cent this financial year, as predicted in Mr Hockey’s May budget.
Australia’s labour force figures for July are released on Thursday and are forecast to show a solid 12,000 rise in the number of people of employed.
However, economists say this won’t be enough to cut into the unemployment rate, which is expected to stay at six per cent.
The Department of Employment’s leading jobs indicator released on Wednesday fell for a 10th month in a row, signalling that jobs growth in coming months will be slower than its long-term trend of 1.3 per cent a year.
In contrast, the annual pace of employment in New Zealand is a brisk 3.7 per cent, according to Statistics New Zealand.
The release of the NZ figures coincided with a speech by Mr Hockey to the national conference of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government.
He said New Zealand has stolen the advantage from Australia during the past few years by combining domestic structural reforms with newly negotiated trade opportunities in Asia.
“As a result, they have falling unemployment, rising living standards and a budget that is coming into surplus,” Mr Hockey said.
Faced with a hostile Senate over his first budget, Mr Hockey also said he was “quite jealous” that NZ Prime Minister John Key has to deal with only one parliamentary chamber.
Even so, Mr Key and Finance Minister Bill English are showing the world how economic reform should be done.
And it has not been achieved through “luck or complacency”.
“There is no she’ll-be-right attitude,” Mr Hockey said.
While some of Australia’s economic indicators are heading in the right direction, Mr Hockey said there needed to be broader-based growth to bring the unemployment rate down and to support a sustainable growth in living standards.
“Now is the time to fix our budget,” he said.
“By creating an environment where businesses can grow and succeed, we will improve both the quantity and the quality of jobs available for ourselves, and ultimately for our children.”