Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (24 August) . . Page.. 2277 ..
MS CARNELL (continuing):
Mr Speaker, we have already heard Mr Stanhope and Mr Berry waxing lyrical. Before they get carried away on part time versus full time, I will point out that 2,200 of these new jobs were full time. Yes, Mr Berry, you got your media release wrong, again. Well, we should not be surprised.
Mr Speaker, what I have outlined constitutes a remarkable turnaround in the ACT's employment market that has occurred under this Government. The ACT has the second lowest unemployment rate in Australia, with only the Northern Territory recording a better result. Our unemployment rate is a full 1.4 percentage points below the national average, and our participation rate is more than 8 percentage points above the national average. Our rate of job growth over the last 12 months, at 2 per cent, is above the national average of 1.8 per cent.
Mr Hird's question is an important one because it enables me to deal with claims made by those opposite that this Government has somehow failed on the jobs front. In recent months we have heard Mr Berry saying things like: "We need more action on jobs from the Carnell Government". He made that statement on 30 May. Then, on 10 June, he said, "It's clear that the policies of the Chief Minister Kate Carnell have started the rise in unemployment all over again. We need a new commitment from the Carnell Government to jobs, jobs, jobs". That is what Mr Berry said. Well, Mr Speaker, if I am responsible for a rise in the unemployment rate, then equally I must be responsible for helping to create the highest number of jobs ever in Canberra and the lowest jobless rate for nearly 9 years. Do not take my word for it, Mr Berry - - -
Mr Stanhope: We will not.
MS CARNELL: I do not expect you to. Let us have a look at the Centrelink data. Do not take my word for it, take Centrelink's word for it. The number of people registered on unemployment benefits in Canberra fell by 16 per cent over the past 12 months to just 7,000. Our employment market is currently in the best shape it has been for almost a decade. With job advertisements also at a nine-year high and strong demand forecast by a range of organisations, including Morgan and Banks, Drake Personnel and the ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in fact everybody who does any work in this area at all, this indicates a very positive outlook for jobs in the ACT. If you put all this together with the other economic indicators, such as retail trade, state final demand and housing finance activity, you have a picture of an economy which has emerged from the downturn in 1997 much stronger than when we went into the recession.
This Government took on two major challenges when we came into government in 1995. The first big challenge was to fix up the appalling financial position that the Labor Party had left. We have achieved that outcome. We have turned around a $344m operating loss to a situation where we will go into the black next year. The second challenge was to encourage the diversification of our business space and help position the ACT for the future as a centre of smart industries - that is, Mr Speaker, to create jobs in this city. Mr Speaker, we have created jobs. There is now a record number of jobs in Canberra and a budget that will go into the black next year.
Mr Speaker, if I was one of those opposite I would be very quiet and would hang my head in shame. They should be very pleased that we have more jobs than ever before, that we have fewer people receiving unemployment benefits, that we have fewer people who are unemployed, and that our budget is on track. Today, less than five years later, we are well on course, as we know, to achieve both of the major commitments that this Government made in 1995. In fact, Mr Speaker, you would have to say we are over the line.