Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 5 Hansard (10 May) . . Page.. 1569 ..
MS CHEYNE: Minister, are you confident that maternity services are safe?
MS FITZHARRIS: I am confident that maternity services are safe. I have spent quite some time at the Centenary hospital in the past couple of weeks, making sure that we are doing everything we can to continue to invest in maternity services for our city. There are more and more women having babies every day, which is wonderful, but we need to make sure that we make the right investments and are fully using the capacity that we have across the city. Clinical staff at Centenary hospital have assured me on a number of occasions that the service is safe.
MS CODY: My question is to the Chief Minister. Chief Minister, what does the latest data show about the performance of the ACT's economy?
MR BARR: I thank Ms Cody for the question and I am very pleased to be able to advise the Assembly of some very positive economic data for the territory.
As we have discussed before, our gross state product grew by 4.6 per cent in the last full fiscal year, which was the strongest growth of any state or territory. A particularly strong contributing factor there was 6.5 per cent growth in service exports from the ACT. Our state final demand grew by five per cent in the fiscal year 2016-17, and a strong contributing factor there was 7.5 per cent growth in private investment in the territory economy.
Our residential population is either the fastest or second fastest growing, depending on which period you measure. The most recent data from the ABS shows population growth of 1.8 per cent. In September 2017—going back about six months now—the territory's population was 412,617 according to the ABS.
Pleasingly, unemployment is either equal to the lowest or the second lowest in the nation. That has come off the back of very strong growth in the labour market. Pleasingly also, there was a significant lift in the participation rate, at 72.1 per cent—one of the most engaged communities in the workforce.
More recent data in the housing market shows that building approvals, residential approvals, increased by 58.2 per cent through the year to March 2018. And talking of buildings and home ownership, the most recent data shows that first homebuyers made up more than 25 per cent of total housing loans in the ACT. That is significantly higher than the national average.
MS CODY: Chief Minister, how is our continued growth translating into more jobs for Canberrans?
MR BARR: Over the last 12 months 10,600 new full-time jobs were created in the ACT. The share of Canberrans working full time is currently at the highest level it has been at for more than three years. It is encouraging to see that the local economy's growth is also creating opportunities for young people and for women. Women's