The debate over whether the Government’s stimulus should be withdrawn appears impervious to facts — like that the only reason employment and economic growth have been sustained is because of the stimulus spending.

It probably won’t change the Press Gallery’s pretence that this is a matter for serious debate, but today’s retail sales and housing finance data demonstrate the fragility of the economy. They may have been small falls — 2% for housing finance, 1% for retail sales — but they come at a point where the economy is in the middle of a transition from the retail stimulus component to the infrastructure component, timed to occur between the June and September quarters.

In short, despite the Government pumping tens of billions of dollars into both sectors, they are nowhere close to normal conditions.

The perversity of the stimulus debate is reinforced by the fact that, in the event the stimulus was halted now, it would kill off the highest quality spending, in economic terms.

While the cash splash has been handed out and the school buildings and social housing are going up right now, the spending component yet to ramp up is that being directed at significant economic infrastructure, particularly in transport, which everyone is in furious agreement suffered a relative underinvestment during the course of the last decade’s boom.These are long-term projects that require years to complete, and which were unsuitable for the sort of immediate stimulus to employment the economy needed, but which will yield significant economic benefits, as well as a somewhat smaller number of jobs, as the economic recovery gathers momentum.

Still, we shouldn’t let the facts get in the way of the “stimulus debate” story.