Page 2027 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 28 June 2023

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MR BARR: Again, I thank Dr Paterson for the question. We acknowledge that cost of living pressures are being felt. We also acknowledge that Canberrans generally enjoy a high standard of living. But there are some in our community for whom life is very tough at the moment. That is why, in the budget, we significantly extended eligibility for the territory’s single largest rebate.

We offer a range of targeted rebates, subsidies, concessions and discounts to support those in the community who need them most. Adding 12,000 additional households to the $800 territory utilities payment, taking eligibility up to nearly a quarter of all households in the territory, will make a significant difference in the coming 12 months.

Beyond that headline measure, we have also in the budget made allowance for an additional payment of $250 to the households on Housing ACT’s priority housing waiting list. We have increased the taxi subsidy scheme’s cap by 15 per cent, and we have increased the means testing of income for access to legal aid assistance, to better align with cost of living and to support more Canberrans to access legal representation. The cost of living has been a key consideration throughout the budget preparation. I thank the committee that undertook some work on behalf of this Assembly and the recommendations that it made.

Beyond the changes that we have announced in this budget, the government intends to review other aspects of our targeted assistance strategy, and we will make some further announcements regarding this process in the coming months.

MR PETTERSSON: Chief Minister, given we have been in a full employment environment for well over a year, what measures will the government be taking to increase labour supply?

MR BARR: I thank Mr Pettersson for the question. I think it is clear that continuing to have some of the best employment conditions in the country will mean that Canberra will continue to be one of the fastest growing cities in the country. In addition to investment in skills, on which Minister Steel is working very closely with Minister O’Connor, as part of the national skills agreement that we hope to finalise this year, we are also working to attract skilled migrants to Canberra to fill the job vacancies we have in our economy.

This approach is clearly working, as we are the fastest growing jurisdiction in Australia. The population is estimated to grow by 2¼ per cent in the current fiscal year, which is half a per cent higher than we thought and anticipated even back in February. In the budget we are projecting that growth will stay at or above two per cent across the forward estimates.

As I mentioned yesterday, this is a very clear indication that people are voting with their feet and want to live in Canberra. Overseas and interstate migration, along with natural increase, are all forecast to contribute to our population growth, and our task is to manage that growth; hence the focus on housing and on planning system reform.

At the last election, we were told that people were abandoning Canberra en masse; that apparently half the city was moving to Queanbeyan or elsewhere. The evidence is


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