Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 4 Hansard (8 April) . . Page.. 1130..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
I will return to the issue of the Rudd government's decision in a moment, but it is worth reflecting on the state of the IT industry. For a number of years this industry has been in a position where demand for people has outstripped supply, and we only have to remember the loss of the Australian Taxation Office IT contract to Melbourne because of concerns about having sufficient IT people available in the ACT. Now we are seeing a reversal of that balance such that the ACT might have a surplus of IT professionals chasing a smaller pool of work, and, indeed, a smaller pool of work at cheaper rates per hour. If the evidence of action that should have been taken by the Stanhope government is anything to go by, the ACT is, in fact, not prepared for such a slowdown.
There was no evidence that the Stanhope government had any idea of the taxation office decision under the previous government. That, of course, was a Liberal government. But it seems that the Stanhope government is not even capable of being aware of potential decisions or being informed of decisions that could have an adverse impact on the ACT economy under the current federal government, a Labor government. You have to question the relationship that the Stanhope Labor government has with a federal government of any ilk, and then you have to question what plans, if any, it has to respond to such decisions. I have to say that you have to sadly assume that, one, the relationship with any federal government will not improve, and, two, the response to any such downturn will continue to be inadequate.
The portents from this latest evidence are not good for the local IT industry, and they are not good for the management of the ACT economy in general. In reality, we have an ACT government that does not attempt to understand what is happening, does not prepare a response to those circumstances and is incapable of having a relationship with the feds of any ilk. What does it do—simply wait for things to happen and then try to respond? We heard the pat answers from the Chief Minister today where he went to things like the current rate of unemployment and said that unemployment is so low that things must be good. But you only have to look at the indicators and how they work to know that unemployment and downturn in employment comes, the experts would say, some six months after the downturn has already occurred. So, six months from now, what we will be hearing from the government will be very, very interesting.
What appears to be happening with the approach of the decisions being taken or proposed by the Rudd government is that this government seems not to have an answer ready to address those issues. There has been a strong telegraphing of the nature of the Rudd government cuts towards the ACT for many months. They foreshadowed big cuts, enormous cuts, in the lead-up to the budget, but they were light on detail. We only have to see the latest example on the front page of the Canberra Times last Wednesday where the headline was about expected budget pain in the ACT and that federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan, was warning of pain in his first budget to be brought down in less than six weeks.
The federal Treasurer was reported as saying that, and the early shots that were telegraphed by the Rudd government have already seen some significant slashing of jobs and programs in the ACT, whether they be capital or recurrent. We saw