Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3448..
MS CARNELL (continuing):
with a government that is very keen to have you, and we have a single point of entry into all government areas to stop the difficulties of dealing with government that other State governments have". Mr Speaker, this has been extraordinarily successful.
If Mr Quinlan is looking at the figures and wondering why we have not got all the jobs yet, it is because these payroll tax exemptions, all of which are up to a certain amount of money, go for five or 10 years. It is quite simple, but how those opposite have the audacity to ask questions about jobs, Mr Speaker, escapes me.
MR HIRD: Mr Speaker, I heard an interjection - I think it came from Mr Berry - about national trends. It is a shame that those opposite cannot give credit where credit is due. This Government has excelled in the area of jobs. My question, sir, is to the Chief Minister. Can the Chief Minister tell the parliament what the growth rate has been in private sector employment in Canberra in past years? Can she also tell us what the ratio of public to private sector employment is in the ACT right now and how this compares with the situation when this Government came to office back in 1995?
MS CARNELL: Thank you very much, Mr Hird. What an appropriate question, considering Mr Quinlan's question just a few minutes ago. Mr Hird is right when he says that you very rarely hear the Labor Party saying anything positive about jobs in this city. We just saw a bit more of that a minute ago. I can understand why this is the case when you realise that under this Government we have achieved the lowest unemployment rate in nine years. It is 5.6 per cent, a rate that those opposite could only dream of. The lowest they ever got to in office, Mr Speaker, was 6.7 per cent, back in late 1991. So we are more than a percentage point below them. The rate of growth in private sector employment might not seem very important to some people in Canberra, but I suggest that it should be of importance to everyone, including those opposite.
When we came to government, Mr Speaker, you will remember we recognised early that this city's future depended on lessening our dependence on a single employer, the Commonwealth public sector. We needed a diversified business base so that we were not at the mercy of Federal governments in the future. Employment in the ACT was totally dominated by the public sector, which placed the Territory in a precarious position when Federal governments cut back on expenditure or downsized departments. It happened under both governments, Mr Speaker, and every time it happened the ACT economy suffered badly. We understood that we needed to change that forever.
Indeed, back in 1996 the folly of that approach was shown when the Commonwealth shed something in the order of 7,500 jobs from its agencies in Canberra over two years. What happened? It had a dramatic effect on our economy, on our property values, on our budget, and even on our quality of life.
This Government took the view that we could not totally rely on the Commonwealth in the future, so we set about engineering a fundamental shift of thinking in this area, and, of course, business incentive grants were very much part of that whole approach. We have worked hard to ensure that Canberra retains as much as possible of the Commonwealth work that was outsourced. We were roundly criticised when we took