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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 8 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 2181..


MR SMYTH: My question is to the Minister for Business and Economic Development. Minister, the Canberra Business Council has been very critical of the decisions of your government to reduce support for business development in the ACT. Indeed, last week, the chairman of the council, Craig Sloan, said that the Stanhope government's commitment to develop the ACT economy "was largely undone in the 2006-07 budget by the government's slash and burn approach to economic development". Minister, what can you say to reassure the Canberra Business Council and the Canberra community that your government has not reneged on its economic white paper commitments to develop a sustainable ACT economy?

MR STANHOPE: What I would say to the business council and to the Liberal Party is: walk around outside and open your eyes. Look at the community that is currently the strongest in Australia in terms of its economic performance and its economy—the ACT. The lowest unemployment rate in Australia—the ACT. The highest participation rate in Australia—the ACT. The highest level of housing finance commitments in Australia—the ACT. The highest pro rata rate of commercial development in Australia—the ACT. The highest level of housing development in Australia—the ACT. The highest level of growth in Australia.

If anybody in business today—as Ross Barrett continues to tell me—is not doing well or is suffering a bit, they should not be in business. That is what the ACT director of the Master Builders Association likes to tell me when he sees the occasional whinge from representatives or people within the business community. He says to me, "Jon, just tell them that if they are not making a go of business in the ACT today, they really should not be in business."

Conditions have never been this buoyant, levels of prosperity have never been this high, wages have never been as strong. Every single economic indicator you want to point to reveals that the ACT economy, except for Western Australia—which is driven on iron ore, the resources boom and massive exports to China—is the strongest in Australia. We are leaving them for dead. They are left in our wake. This is, on all indicators, the economy that is performing better than every other in Australia.

Even in that environment—an environment of record low unemployment, of record high participation rates, of record growth, of unparalleled commercial and residential development, the largest commitment of housing start-ups of any place in Australia—there are still people saying it is not good enough. They point to the government, saying, "What are you doing to ensure a strong economy, a broad economy, a well-performing economy?"in an environment where there is not a single economic indicator that they can point to where we lag against the rest of Australia—in fact, where we do not exceed the performance of every other place in Australia.

So to say what have we been doing, what we have done over six years in government is to produce precisely that—the strongest economy in Australia. You ask me, "What are we going to do?"We have the strongest economy in Australia, outside of Western Australia, and you ask me, "What more are we going to do, what are we going to do

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