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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 12 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 November 2021) . . Page.. 3529 ..


Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate—Part 1.5

MRS JONES (Murrumbidgee) (4.20): Today I speak to the Appropriation Bill 2021-2022 on behalf of Ms Lee. This budget was Mr Barr’s 10th consecutive budget as Treasurer of our territory. This is an important point that should be made at the outset: Mr Barr has controlled the levers of the budget for over a decade now. After 20 years of Labor budgets—the majority of which have been supported by the Greens—this government has handed down a patch-up job of spending to cover up 20 years of mismanagement and complacency in our territory.

In Ms Lee’s budget reply she outlined the Canberra Liberals labelling of the budget as a band-aid budget. Mr Barr proclaimed, on launch day of his 10th budget, that the budget would deliver record investments in our health system, further funding for public education, and an ambitious infrastructure program. Well, after 20 consecutive Labor budgets, it is an indictment on this government’s record that so many areas of this government’s responsibility are in need of a cash splash.

The incursion of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown our city has gone through have taken a massive toll on everyone but particularly on our economy. The next 12 months are critical for our economic recovery. Many businesses have closed and will never re-open. Many others have had to dig deep into their savings or have gone into debt to preserve what they have worked so hard to build. These Canberra businesses need this government to have their backs.

COVID-19 has caused fundamental changes to the global economy. International and interstate border closures over the course of the last two years have severely reduced labour movements into Australia, and into the ACT from other states and territories. International students and migrants fill vital workforce shortages in our economy, particularly in the hospitality and retail sectors, which have been hit so hard by this pandemic. Reduced labour mobility across Australia, combined with this government’s appalling treatment of business during the lockdown, poses significant risk to our economic recovery. National unemployment data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the month of October indicates that the ACT now has the highest rate of unemployment of any state or territory in the nation with an increase from 4.1 to 6.7 per cent, constituting a loss of 4,641 jobs in just one month.

While this data is only very recent and of a small timeframe, the sudden increase is of concern given the fundamental stability of our labour market here in the ACT. Increased unemployment here is also particularly concerning given the rapid increase in job vacancies we are seeing in Canberra and across the region. The latest data from Labour Market Information Portal shows that the ACT’s three-month rolling average for online job ads to the end of October 2021 was 40 per cent higher than the long-term average. Nationally, job ads are as high as they have ever been, with Seek reporting the highest number of job ads posted in a month in the company’s 23-year history.

A combination of unemployment and job vacancies indicates a skills mismatch in our labour market. Skill shortages across the ACT economy—a product of this


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