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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 12 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 November 2021) . . Page.. 3538 ..

One of these—and COVID has demonstrated this, perhaps to the surprise of many of us—is that people working from home is something that may be a part of the new normal following COVID. I was at first reluctant to work from home, but I could see some benefits from that, as part of a workplace arrangement.

Of course, if someone can work from home—for example, for the commonwealth public service—do they necessarily have to be in Canberra? Could they be in New South Wales, Victoria or anywhere else in Australia? So there is a risk to our workplace arrangements in the post-COVID period whereby remote work might actually detract from employment for ACT residents.

We are hearing, from some fronts in the federal sphere, a strong drive to decentralise parts of the commonwealth public service. We have already seen that happen. Again, these are risks that the government should be addressing, and I do not believe that the challenge has been taken up.

We hear again and again about the skills shortage in the ACT. Many of the trades and construction work being done in the territory requires workers to be brought in from outside. I have mentioned this before, but I was quite surprised during estimates when I asked the ACT Insurance Authority from where they sourced their actuarial services. They could not source them within the territory. Such a high-level professional service, surely, should be encouraged to be within this city.

I mention with regret, too, with respect to skills shortage and training subsidies, that the training subsidies for trades and construction in the territory are the lowest in the country. I would encourage the government, with its procurement, to be bolder in developing and encouraging the private sector. We deserve to have a diversified employment place. Canberra should be an employment destination.

We have so many opportunities here in professional services, IT, clean energy, cybersecurity and defence. We have highly trained educators. We have world-class operations in the ACT. We should be encouraging them and doing more for them so that people want to come to the territory to work—and, even more importantly, perhaps, so that those who are skilled and trained here, sometimes at the highest educational levels, are encouraged to stay.

That touches on the taxation space as well. The impact of the rates review, the rates reform, is disappointing. Again, we are seeing the high residential rates and commercial rates in the territory acting as a disincentive for businesses and individuals to come here. Unfortunately, it is an incentive for many to leave. I would encourage the government to review its current reform agenda.

In closing, and in terms of my role as shadow minister for regulatory services, I want to praise, as the minister has done on many occasions, the staff of Access Canberra. But I bemoan the fact that, clearly, they are not properly supported in performing their functions, particularly the public-facing functions at shopfronts. The stories are well known when it comes to the long waiting times that are facing individuals seeking those services.

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