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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 2 Hansard (1 March) . . Page.. 484 ..

Retail sector

MR HIRD: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Business, Tourism and the Arts, Mr Smyth. Minister, in the Canberra Times recently a Labor candidate in Brindabella, a Mr Athol Williams, claimed that the ACT retail sector was "somewhat recessed". Minister, can you tell the parliament whether there is any evidence to support this claim by a senior unionist and also a candidate for the forthcoming ACT elections.

Mr Humphries: He didn't speak for the party!

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, I guess it does raise the question-

Mr Stanhope: Give us your definition of "agreement", Gary. Tell us again what "agreement" means.

MR SPEAKER: Order! I warn you, Mr Stanhope. That is four of you.

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, it would not come as a surprise to many people that while one candidate is busily announcing what it is that the opposition is doing or not doing, we have Mr Stanhope denying that anybody is saying anything at all.

The Labor Party under its new leader, Mr Stanhope, said that essentially it would be accountable to the people and work cooperatively, constructively and with mutual respect for each other. One would have to assume that that would mean being straight with the people of Canberra. I was somewhat surprised to read the recent comments in the Canberra Times attributed to Labor candidate, Athol Williams, as they certainly fly in the face of all the evidence-but then, when has the Labor Party ever let the facts stand in the way of a good story?

Mr Speaker, it is hardly surprising that while one candidate is busily announcing Labor policy on the run and throwing money at voters-despite the express views of his leader, Mr Stanhope, that that would not occur-another candidate is making comments that fly in the face of the facts and fly in the face of reality. That is the new face of Labor-it would appear to be two-faced.

Mr Williams claimed that anecdotal evidence showed that the ACT retail sector was recessed and that this flew in the face of reported high business confidence, thereby casting doubt on the level of that confidence. The business confidence he is referring to is the ACT Chamber of Commerce and Industry's quarterly business expectation survey which recorded high business confidence in the ACT, with increases in wage rates and employment levels. The chamber surveyed some 200 members, covering small and big business, to get these results.

The results come after and in fact reinforce a recent Australian Bureau of Statistics report that the retail trade in the ACT had increased by an incredible 13.9 per cent in the year to December. Again, we all know that the ABS is the leading national body for collecting statistical data. But no, Labor's Mr Williams says he is the expert and that in fact Canberra is in recession. I am surprised he did not quote a former Labor Prime Minister and say that it is the recession that we had to have.

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