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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 8 Hansard (23 August) . . Page.. 2549..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

in this particular instance, IT specialists to fulfil its own needs, let alone the nation's needs.

At the heart of much of the debate around skills shortages is of course the appalling neglect by the federal Liberal government, the Howard government, of universities. One of the great emerging crises in Australia is the crisis generated by a lack of skills and a lack of training. We see it in this particular instance in relation to IT. The commonwealth has simply not supported the training of the professionals it requires for its own work force, let alone the broader work force. That is a matter of enormous regret, and I am prepared to express that regret. I would ask the Liberal Party in the ACT to ask their Liberal colleagues to support Canberra as the national capital.

MR SPEAKER: The Chief Minister's time has expired.

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Chief Minister, since the tax office also took the decision to move jobs out of the ACT, what have you done to consult with the federal government on the need to keep jobs in the ACT?

MR STANHOPE: It is, I think, a matter of continuing concern that the Liberal Party federally continues to show a lack of support for Canberra. It is a subliminal form of Canberra bashing that the federal government is engaging in by refusing to recognise the fundamental importance of Canberra as the national capital and as the seat of government. The ACT is to a very significant extent suffering as a result of its enormous economic success, reflected most particularly through a 2.8 per cent unemployment rate here within the territory. Within the area of IT, the unemployment rate for IT specialists is probably zero. We have a booming economy. Since we came to government five years ago we have increased the work force here in the territory by 17,000.

Mr Smyth: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: under standing order 118 (b) the minister cannot debate the subject. The question is: what has he done to communicate with the federal government? We are yet to hear anything.

MR SPEAKER: Come to the subject matter of the question, Chief Minister.

MR STANHOPE: The ACT is a victim of its own success, to a great extent. Since coming to government the work force in the ACT has increased by 17,000. Over that same period we have seen the ACT produce quarter after quarter, in every single range of indicators that you are prepared to focus on, the extent to which the ACT economy is beating the rest of Australia. This is highlighted by the 2.8 per cent trend unemployment that we are currently experiencing in the territory—17,000 additional jobs, the participation rate the highest in Australia at 74 per cent—an eight per cent higher participation rate. These enormously strong economic indicators—the strength of the economy, the extent to which it has boomed, the achievements of this government over the last five years—are just exceptional. And there is a consequence of that. The economy is so strong, it is booming, confidence is up, business is looking to the future, we have the lowest unemployment, the highest retail turnover—

Mr Smyth: Mr Speaker, under standing order 118 (b), he cannot debate the subject. The question is quite clear. What has he done—

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