Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (23 June) . . Page.. 826 ..
MS CARNELL (continuing):
enthusiasm and even risk-taking. This Government is playing its part in providing the drive and aggressive leadership that are needed. And we are doing it responsibly, by listening and responding to what Canberrans have to say about what they want their city to look like now and in the future.
There is no doubt that some sectors of the community will welcome elements of this budget strategy while others will not find everything they are looking for. But that is part of the necessary balance that we have to strike between what is achievable and what is affordable. Since 1995, this Government has been forced to confront three major problems: A Territory that was spending way beyond its means; reduced Federal funding; and a recession caused by Commonwealth spending and employment cutbacks. We have taken each of these challenges head-on. We have brought the Territory's finances back under control, modernised the ACT Public Service, established Canberra as a major high technology and advanced technology centre in Australia, and helped Canberrans to believe in their city once again.
Mr Speaker, it has not been easy, and there are tough decisions that will still have to be made in the years ahead. Against that background, there are four key elements of our budget strategy. First, we will continue to reduce the Territory's operating loss while maintaining our AAA credit rating. Secondly, we will deliver in full on our recurrent election promises, costing approximately $6.4m. Thirdly, we will provide a significant boost to tourism marketing and promotion in the lead-up to the Centenary of Federation and the 2000 Olympics. Finally, we will make the single greatest provision since self-government for our superannuation liabilities. Mr Speaker, that is what we were elected to do.
Mr Speaker, during the past two years the ACT has weathered the most serious economic downturn in more than two decades and, under this Government, has emerged stronger than ever before. The recession, caused by massive Federal spending and employment cutbacks, officially ended in the December quarter of 1996. Since that time, the ACT economy has been experiencing a steady recovery, fuelled mainly by remarkable private sector growth. Private final consumption spending increased by 6.3 per cent in real terms in the year to March 1998 - the best performance of any State or Territory in this country, Mr Speaker.
Across a broad range of economic indicators, such as retail trade and new motor vehicle registrations, the Territory has equalled or outperformed the rest of Australia during the past year. Business confidence also remains higher under this Government. The budget, therefore, forecasts improved economic growth - from 1.4 per cent last year to 3.2 per cent in 1998-99. Inflation is forecast to be 2.5 per cent this year. Most importantly, Mr Speaker, more and more Canberrans are finding work - something really important to all of us - with the help of a Government that has aggressively promoted a better business climate. While the number of full-time and part-time jobs has grown by almost 2 per cent in 1998, the ACT's unemployment rate has dropped by more than one per cent, to just 6.9 per cent - its lowest level for three years. Employment growth is, therefore, predicted to increase by 2.3 per cent over the coming 12 months.