Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 8 Hansard (11 August) . .
net operating balance and net debt and strong growth in the territory economy. The deficit of $172 million for 2015-16 is $60 million lower than what was estimated at budget time and significantly lower than what was estimated last year.
This is a positive result. It demonstrates that the government's economic and fiscal plan is working. We have maintained jobs and growth during the significant shock to our economy caused by the federal Liberal government's cuts to the public sector here in Canberra. Our economy is now growing rapidly and our budget is weathering this storm, as this report makes clear. We remain on track to return the budget to surplus and growth remains in the ACT amongst the strongest of all Australian jurisdictions.
The June quarter report shows that total revenue for the general government sector was $4,769.6 million which is $37.2 million higher than the estimated outcome. This includes higher taxation revenue of just under $25 million, which mostly relates to the strength of the residential property market, and higher revenue in the small and large commercial property markets; larger distributions from financial investments—nearly $11 million—primarily due to a higher than anticipated distribution of income on Australian and international debt and share investments to the superannuation provision account; and higher than anticipated commonwealth grants of $10.9 million, largely reflecting funding for the national disability insurance scheme.
Total expenses for the general government sector were $5,089.8 million, which was $41 million lower than the estimated outcome. This favourable result is mainly due to lower operating expenses. It also includes the capitalisation of works for the Constitution Avenue project.
The territory has been experiencing strong economic growth reflected in key indicators such as gross state product, state final demand and employment growth. We have the lowest unemployment rate in Australia. Our economy is performing well and is on track to meet, and possibly exceed, our 2016-17 estimate of two per cent growth in gross state product in 2015-16.
Looking forward, the ACT economy is expected to continue to expand, with economic growth forecast to reach 2.25 per cent in the current fiscal year before returning to its 10-year trend growth rate of 2.5 per cent from 2017-18 onwards. The strength of the ACT economy is also demonstrated by recent outcomes in economic activity as measured by state final demand.
The most recent data shows that for the March quarter this year the ACT recorded the highest state final demand growth rate of any state or territory at 1.3 per cent. This was significantly higher than the national average and came at a time when most states and territories actually recorded declines in state final demand. Over the 12 months to March 2016, state final demand grew by 2.9 per cent.
The labour market is continuing to improve, with employment growth reaching a solid 1.5 per cent during 2015-16, equating to the creation of 3,100 new jobs, and exceeding the 2015-16 forecast of one per cent growth, smashing that out of the park. It is 50 per cent more than we were anticipating: 3,100 new jobs in this economy in 2015-16. And our unemployment rate has fallen to 3.6 per cent, the lowest in the country.
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