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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 486 ..

Mr Berry: How fast is the population growing?

MS CARNELL: Mr Berry says, "How fast is the population growing?". Those opposite have said that everyone has left Canberra. Mr Speaker, those opposite have said, "Everyone has gone; we will all be doomed". You cannot have it both ways, Mr Berry. In other words, Mr Speaker, employment has risen by 21/2 per cent. To me, that is a quite remarkable outcome, given that this city has been through a pretty tough time since the middle of 1996. Remember that 9,000 jobs were to go from the Commonwealth Public Service in just three years; yet we have 3,900 more jobs in Canberra than we had at the same time in 1995.

Mr Speaker, that is not in percentage terms; that is for real jobs, real people. Mr Berry always says, "How many of them are part time?". The fact is, Mr Speaker, that 3,000 of them are full time and 900 are part time. That is not bad, Mr Speaker. In the past six months the trend rate of unemployment in the ACT has dropped by a staggering 1.2 per cent, Mr Speaker. I am pleased to advise, too, that we now have the lowest number of unemployed in the ACT since July 1994. I repeat: We now have the lowest number of unemployed in the ACT since July 1994.

Mr Speaker, to complete the picture, encouraging news is emerging from Centrelink as well. Centrelink's latest figures show that the number of people in Canberra receiving unemployment benefit in April was 7 per cent lower than it was in the same month in 1997, and 6 per cent lower than in April 1996, when the impact of the recession first started to be felt in Canberra. Mr Speaker, I suppose I had better say it a bit more slowly, for Mr Berry's benefit. The ACT has now recorded six consecutive months of job growth and a reduction in the number of unemployed; so, there have been more jobs and fewer unemployed for six months in a row. All of this points to an economy that is in recovery and an economy that is strengthening. Mr Speaker, none of this can be attributed to the Labor Party, which continues to preach doom and gloom about the future of the ACT.

Mr Speaker, I am looking forward to the day when good unemployment figures come out and Mr Berry goes out and says, "Good work, Government. Is that not magnificent?". I could be waiting for a very long time; so, I will not sweat on that, Mr Speaker. We still have a long way to go; there is no doubt about that.

Mr Berry: Yes, of course we do.

MS CARNELL: The events in Asia are still unfolding as I speak, and there are many more challenges ahead. But, Mr Speaker, I can say to this Assembly today that we are in much better shape now than we would have been if we had taken Labor's path of simply whingeing, sitting on our hands, doing nothing and just saying to the people of Canberra, "It will be all right". The fact is that it would not have been all right, Mr Speaker. The approach we have taken has worked, but the hard yards certainly are not over.

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