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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 13 Hansard (13 December) . . Page.. 4080..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

conscious that it would be quite inappropriate to ask the general citizens of the ACT to restrict it and let their lawns die off without actually following suit.

Some of the sprinkler systems in our parks are required to have water go through them at various points in the year, as part of a preventative maintenance program. But that is not an ongoing timing issue. I will need, as I say, to supplement the information to the member when I take some of the information on notice. I am not aware of the timetable of setting the sprinklers off—I do not carry that around with me on the top of my head—but I am very happy to get back to the member on that.

Housing—finance data

MS MacDONALD: My question is to the Chief Minister. Could the Chief Minister please report to the Assembly on the recent release of Australian Bureau of Statistics data on housing finance commitments and the recent release of Real Estate Institute of Australia figures?

MR STANHOPE: I thank Ms MacDonald for the question. It is a timely question and there is some need to set some of the record straight on these particular issues. In recent times, notably this week, there has been some misunderstanding, if not some misinformation, in relation to issues around the position of housing in the ACT and the extent to which the ACT is comparable with other places around Australia.

The question does go specifically to issues around housing finance commitments. The most recent release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the trend rate of growth in the number of housing finance commitments for owner occupation in the ACT at 3.4 per cent for October, which is far and away the highest monthly trend growth rate of any place in Australia. The next highest, for instance, is Tasmania at 0.5 per cent, against the ACT's 3.4 per cent, and most other states are showing negative growth. So it goes from 3.4 per cent in the ACT to 0.5 per cent in Tasmania and everybody else essentially is into negative growth. Compared to the year ended October 2005 the number of housing finance commitments is up by 15.9 per cent to October 2006. The trend number of housing finance commitments for owner occupation in October hit 835, the highest trend number of commitments since August 2003; that is, the highest number of Canberrans committing to owner-occupied home loans since the height of the Australia-wide housing boom.

The average loan size in October 2006 was $232,200. It has to be said that if there is an historically large number of Canberrans, an increasing number of Canberrans, making this commitment to housing finance it does show their confidence in Canberra and in the city. Of course, why wouldn't they be confident? We have just set an Australian record for the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded in the history of the ABS monthly labour force survey. That is a remarkable achievement by the ACT. We have the highest labour force participation rate in Australia by far—the highest by almost 10 per cent. That is a staggering lead in terms of participation by the people of the ACT in the labour force, and incomes in the Australian Capital Territory are growing.

The strength of the housing market is not just limited, however, to the owner-occupier segment. The latest figures from the ABS show that the value of housing finance

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