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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 1693 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

One last issue needs to be raised. Mr Corbell made some comments about employment and the general mood of the ACT community. Employment in the ACT, as we know, is at the highest level ever. We have more jobs and more people in jobs now, not in percentage terms but in actual numbers, than we have ever had before. The number of unemployed has fallen over the last year at a faster rate than nationally. So much for an economy that is falling over! In terms of confidence in the economy, weekly job vacancies in the ACT have increased markedly over the last year and the rate of growth is much higher than the national growth rate. The ACT participation rate in the work force has remained stable across the year and remains much higher than the national participation rate. That is not exactly indicative of people not having any confidence. Our average weekly earnings remain higher than the national figures and have increased faster than national AWEs over the last year. Mr Speaker, the list goes on.

Interesting figures that came out today and yesterday show that over the last 12 months retail sales, a very good indicator of confidence in a community - people simply do not spend in the retail sector if they are not confident - have increased by 5.5 per cent. That compares with 4.5 per cent nationally. It is certainly a better outcome than is the case in most States.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released today show that in trend terms the number of residential building approvals in the ACT jumped by 19.5 per cent to 227 in July. That is the sixth consecutive monthly increase. In the quarter ending in July there was a staggering 74 per cent increase, compared to the same three months in 1997.

No matter how you look at those figures - retail, home approvals, average weekly earnings, numbers of jobs, job advertisements, even confidence levels as judged by the Chamber of Commerce and companies looking at putting on new staff - all of them are significantly better than they were 12 months ago and much better than they were two years ago. This does not indicate to me, and it would not indicate to any rational normal human being, a city that is lacking confidence or a city that is on its last legs. I have to say that he did not say "last legs". He referred to a community that is lacking confidence. He referred to a community that is concerned about jobs, and I think they are, but we have delivered. We have delivered more jobs. We have delivered growth. We have delivered confidence. I know it is hard for those opposite to accept that. The fact is that it is the truth.

MR CORBELL (6.42): Mr Speaker, I was not going to speak again but after the Chief Minister's rather patronising comments and misrepresentation of what I said I will. The point I was making, which the Chief Minister quite blatantly misrepresented, was that in the Canberra community there is a very strong sense of insecurity over employment. I stand by that comment. The Chief Minister can quote all the figures she likes from the Chamber of Commerce, the ABS or whomever but from anecdotal evidence that I have from people I meet in the street, organisations I go and speak to and people who come and see me about their concerns, it is very clear what their problems are.

Ms Carnell: So let us throw the ABS out.

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