Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 485 ..
MS CARNELL: I thank Mr Hird for the question, because it is a question that really matters to the people of the ACT. Mr Speaker, it has been well known that the total number of jobs to be lost in the ACT through Federal Government cutbacks over a three-year period was expected to be in the vicinity of 9,000. Some people suggested 10,000, but it was very much in that sort of area, Mr Speaker. To give everyone a bit of an idea of the scale of that reduction, that equates to a loss of almost 6 per cent of the ACT's total work force, or a loss of roughly one job in every 17 - a huge number, Mr Speaker. By any measure, that is a massive reduction. It has had a major social and economic effect on the ACT since 1996, as we all know.
Mr Speaker, the task this Government assumed during our first term in office was to try to come to grips with the problems of an economy which was heavily dependent on public sector growth for increased employment. As I have said many times before, when I became Chief Minister and when this Government came to power, Canberra was not even on the map when it came to investment and other business decisions that were being made in boardrooms around Australia.
I guess we could have gone one of two ways, Mr Speaker. We could have sat on our hands and done nothing, as those opposite did, although very few of those opposite were actually around in the last Labor Government; or we could have done what we did, that is, get up and actually get things moving. Mr Speaker, we needed to move to a situation where we were not as heavily wedded to or reliant on the Federal Government as we had been in the past. We could have done what the Labor Government did for three years and simply sat back and whinged, whinged, whinged - and Mr Berry is still whingeing - and just said to the Federal Government, "Stop taking the axe to the national capital". It is very important to make those points, Mr Speaker. We certainly get no benefit from just whingeing. On the other hand, Mr Speaker, we could have gone out and promoted our city to the rest of the country as a great place in which to live, work and do business.
Mr Speaker, we chose the latter option. We did not sit on our bums and whinge, like Labor; we got on with the job. We worked hard to help local businesses expand and encouraged new ones to start and relocate in Canberra. We backed it up with our Jobs for Canberra strategy and with policies to encourage more diversification, more investment, more confidence and a higher profile for the national capital as a business destination. Together with our industry strategy, we started this city down the long and, I have to say, often painful road of positioning itself as a centre for high-tech, advanced technology and environmental excellence.
I said a year ago that my goal was to position the ACT so that next time the Commonwealth Government sneezed this economy did not catch a cold. I think that we have done very well in achieving just that, Mr Speaker. So, where are we now, Mr Speaker? What have we achieved? In answer to Mr Hird's question, I have to say that the latest official labour force statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics are very encouraging. Let me explain why. When we came to government in March 1995, there were 153,900 Canberrans in full- or part-time employment, according to the Bureau of Statistics. Today, again according to the ABS, there are 157,800 jobs in Canberra. That is an increase of 3,900 full-time and part-time jobs over the last three years.