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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (2 July) . . Page.. 2125 ..

Part 3 - Chief Minister's Department

Proposed expenditure - $93,847,000 (comprising net cost of outputs, $67,077,000; capital injection, $8,348,000; and payments on behalf of Territory, $18,422,000)

MR QUINLAN (12.32): In life and economics the age old idiom of lies, damn lies and statistics pops up every now and then. I want to refer to the economy generally under this heading and, to some extent, make reference to Mrs Carnell's response to a dorothy dixer yesterday - or a Harold Hirder, as we might call them in this place - on the state of the economy. She questioned why we on this side of the house, those over here, have not been as excited as she might be. In fact, she questioned why it is that we have said that the economy is still a little flat. Today I would like to put some balance into the Chief Minister's rhetoric of yesterday.

Let me give you a quick rundown on two key forms of economic indicators, Mr Speaker. Firstly, there are forward-looking indicators, which tell you what is expected to happen in the future. They tell you what has been approved to happen or is expected to happen at some time in the future. Secondly, there are historical indicators. As the name suggests, these figures generally tell you what has happened in a past period. From those you could generally get the feeling of how the economy has been looking.

The first part of what I want to say is just a quick look at the historic picture. Of interest to the Chief Minister is the historical state of the economy. The trend rate of unemployment for the ACT currently stands at 6.2 per cent. That is a pretty good number compared with the Australian number, but if you look at the ABS numbers more closely you will find that the ACT is one of three jurisdictions where the figure is back on the increase. More interestingly, if you look at the structure of unemployment in this town you will see that more than 32 per cent of those out of work are long-term unemployed.

That figure is rising. Australia-wide it has dropped by 11 per cent, but in our very own backyard that figure for the number of people who have been unemployed long term has grown by 15.4 per cent. We, at least, are concerned with that figure. We believe that it relates directly to the actions of the Federal Government in particular and to some extent to the ACT Government with its limited capacity to provide employment opportunities.

Let us move to building commencements. At the end of the December quarter the total value of commencements in the ACT had contracted by 58.9 per cent on the previous year, compared to a marginal drop nationally of 8 per cent over the same period. Why are we worried? Because these figures indicate that the building and construction industry has 59 per cent less business than it had at the same time last year.

Let us look at another interesting indicator, motor vehicle registrations, which are a great source of revenue from stamp duty and, of course, a prime category of private new capital expenditure. Guess what happened in May? There was another drop, Mr Speaker. The number of monthly registrations has contracted every single month in trend terms for the last 12 months. The annual drop is 20 per cent in the ACT compared with a 4 per cent fall nationally. Those in the business call that a canary indicator in

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