Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 8 Hansard (23 August) . . Page.. 2548..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
Were you aware of this announcement before it was made? What action did you take or have you taken in an attempt to have this decision reversed?
MR STANHOPE: No, I was not aware of the decision until I sighted a copy of a press release from Mr Hockey. I did, however, meet with Mr Hockey some time in the very recent past, perhaps in the last month. During that meeting we discussed a range of issues. One of the issues discussed was the issue of skills shortages throughout Australia, particularly in relation to IT specialists, but Mr Hockey did not tell me at that meeting that he was proposing to establish a new IT hub in Adelaide.
The first I was aware of decisions taken by Mr Hockey in that regard was when I saw the press release. As I have said, it is a decision I regret. I regret it to the extent that it reflects on the federal Liberal government's commitment to Canberra as the national capital. Canberra was established as the seat of government. We exist because of a decision to locate the federal parliament and its supporting administration here within the national capital. I regret any decision that any government takes, most particularly a federal government—and in this instance a Liberal government—to slight the ACT in its national capital role and to undermine its national capital identity.
I would in fact beseech members of the ACT branch of the Liberal Party to impress upon their federal colleagues the disservice they do to Canberra as the national capital and to our reputation when they take action such as this that undermines our status as the national capital. Mr Smyth, I would hope that you would make representations to your Liberal Party colleagues about the damage the Liberal Party federally does to the ACT when it takes decisions such as this. They are decisions to be regretted.
It was a decision taken of course in the context of national shortages in a whole range of professions and a recognition of enormous skills shortages across the board. I think what is interesting in the decision is the implicit suggestion inherent in the location of a new hub that there are, running around the streets of Adelaide, 100 or thereabouts unemployed IT specialists. I can assure Mr Hockey that there are not. Mr Hockey will have as much chance, or as great a challenge, of attracting the 100 or so IT specialists that he proposes be employed in Adelaide as he would have had the hub—quite rightly and appropriately—been located here in the ACT.
It is to be acknowledged that the ACT has the highest number of ICT companies and ICT specialists per capita in Australia, with 8.6 per cent or thereabouts of the ACT work force identifying as being engaged or working in the field of IT, as against the national average of just over three per cent. I think it is interesting in itself that Adelaide can boast a labour force participation rate by IT specialists of somewhere in the order of three per cent and we have somewhere in the order of 8.5 per cent. But Mr Hockey and the Liberal Party federally believe they will have a greater chance of attracting IT specialists into this new hub in Adelaide than they would in the ACT. I think that is a very poor assumption.
In any event, had the commonwealth government, the federal Liberal government, pressed and pursued the issue of skills shortages—and that, of course, is what this decision begs. It is essentially an admission of failure by the federal government that it has not seen to its own employment needs, that it has not funded universities to train up,