Australian GDP grows in December quarter, WA boasts ‘strongest’ economy during COVID pandemic

By Melissa Coade

March 3, 2022

Mark McGowan
WA premier Mark McGowan. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

New data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recorded a 3.4% increase in economic growth for December, with Western Australia premier Mark McGowan crediting his government’s ‘strong management’ during the pandemic for the state’s economic performance. 

WA’s economy came out ahead of all other Australian states – it was also one of the strictest in terms of border closures – during the pandemic. The premier said his state had ‘defied the impacts of COVID-19’ with state final demand (a measure of domestic economic activity) finishing 7.2% higher in 2021 than 2019.

“Western Australia’s approach to COVID-19 has always been focused on saving lives and protecting jobs,” McGowan said.

“These results confirm WA’s approach has delivered the best outcomes for local jobs, business and the economy throughout the pandemic.”

The premier boasted WA had endured only 12 days in state-ordered lockdown since the height of the pandemic, which meant businesses were able to continue operating ‘largely restriction-free’ while much of the rest of Australia and world came to a standstill. 

The harsh policy has not avoided criticism however, with friends and families unable to see each other or travel interstate for almost two years.

The now NSW premier Dominic Perrottet, who has been verbally sparring with McGowan over his approach to the pandemic for months now, famously quipped the WA premier was the ‘Gollum of Australian politics’ regarding his position on GST. McGowan has been scathing of the NSW government’s handling of the pandemic, blaming them for ‘infecting Victoria twice’ and also ‘infecting’ New Zealand with COVID-19.

“I’m not too worried about [the comment], I’m more worried about the people of NSW and what they’re going through,” McGowan said at the time.

McGowan added that achieving growth in state final demand was a ‘remarkable achievement’.

“[It is] something nobody would have thought possible throughout a global pandemic,” he said. 

“My government has provided almost $1.7 billion of business assistance over the past two years — and we will continue to provide necessary support where required as we move into this next phase of the pandemic.”

WA’s strong performance in the ABS data release come in addition to strong net export results showing a 4.6% growth in the state’s domestic economy and external sector combined for 2021.

According to the latest ABS figures, private demand contributed three percentage points to Australia’s GDP in December 2021, with a 6.3% rise in household final consumption expenditure.

The ABS’ national accounts head Sean Crick said household spending on both goods and services experienced growth, as did recreation and culture, cafes and restaurants and clothing and footwear experiencing strong rises.

“Domestic demand drove the growth this quarter, with high levels of household spending, particularly in the states that emerged from COVID-19 lockdowns. 

“Household spending in NSW, Victoria and the ACT rose 9.6%, compared to the rest of Australia which rose 1.6%,” Crick said. 

The ABS also believes that an increase in household spending and a decline in household income accounted for a drop in the national household saving to income ratio from 19.8% to 13.6%.

“The household saving ratio of 13.6% was higher than the pre-Delta COVID-19 ratio in June quarter 2021 of 11.8%.” Crick said.


Meet Mark McGowan: the WA leader with a staggering 88% personal approval rating

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