Even Australia's hardass Treasury boss John Fraser thinks the economy is picking up

John Fraser, Australia’s Federal Treasury Secretary, hasn’t minced words since being tapped on the shoulder to help the government steer the national finances and economy through this uncomfortable period of transition.

So far he’s said Sydney property prices were in an “unequivocal” bubble. He told the AFR back in September, “I am a prick. I really am.” And, in the same article an old colleague said “He doesn’t suffer fools…He can be pretty brutal with what he says.”

His direct style is no doubt honed from spending so long at the top of one of the World’s biggest money managers, UBS global asset management.

It’s this background of straight talking that gives real strength to his comments today that Australian business is picking up and he’s not getting as beaten up in meetings as he used to.

Fraser told a Senate hearing today that his own feeling was “that things have been picking up somewhat. It’s been happening for the last couple of months or so.”

It’s those face to face meetings that seem to be driving his feeling that things are getting better in business and the economy. “I can’t put a figure on it, it’s just you don’t get beaten up like I did when I first came into this job,” he said

But the really good news is the breadth of the renewed optimism. “It’s in the last two or three months or so. It’s not just big business, it’s tradies, all sorts of businesses,” he said.

A Treasury Secretary talking to tradies, and wandering around the real economy, taking its pulse, is almost as good news as the message he shared.

Clearly though it’s something he’s used to doing.

He said, “You can go to places around the world, New York and elsewhere and you get a feeling about conditions, not a massive impression but certainly a feeling.”

Fraser also noted that different parts of the country are experiencing different levels of growth. His comments on how well Tasmania is doing on the back of increased tourist traffic again highlighted the importance of the lower Aussie dollar in changing spending and purchasing habits within the economy.

“Many elements of the transition are unfolding as expected, supported by the adjustments we have seen in the exchange rate, interest rates and wages,” he said.

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