Page 2918 - Week 09 - Thursday, 18 August 2005

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To highlight some of the statistics that back up the ACT’s position and the benefits that flow from having a strong economy, in many respects we are the best of the best when you look at the statistics. We have the lowest rate of unemployment in the country at 3.3 per cent; we have gross state product of over $47,000 per head compared to $39,000 nationally; we have the highest gross disposable income per capita of $38,000 compared to $25,900 nationally; we have the highest average weekly earnings of just over $1,000, compared to the Australian average of around $900; and we have the highest participation rate in Australia of 72 per cent compared to the national average of 64.

There then follow issues of business confidence, something we often hear about from our opponents, but the fact is that there is a higher level of business confidence experienced in the ACT compared to the national average. ACT is home to 12 per cent of Australia’s total public sector R&D spent. The ANU is consistently rated as Australia’s top university in various international ranking series and in the top 20 universities worldwide. A ranking released last week by the commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training ranked both of our major universities—the ANU and the University of Canberra—among the top eight teaching universities in Australia.

Of our work force, 5.9 per cent hold a postgraduate degree, with 30 per cent holding a bachelor degree or higher qualification. Nationally, the figure is only 2.8 per cent and 18 per cent respectively. Our year 12 retention rates are the highest in the country. We have the highest ICT employment intensity in Australia at 25 ICT jobs per 1,000 population. Canberra companies which this government has actively supported, such as the Distillery, EOS and CEA, are players in the global market. We have the highest proportion of businesses with IT at 77 per cent compared to 71 per cent nationally; we have the highest proportion of businesses with access to the internet; and Canberra averages 14 per cent of all US biotech payments granted each year in Australia. These are strong statistics and a strong base to build on.

Let us look at other employment factors such as payroll tax, which amounts to $693 per employee. ACT businesses incur the lowest average per worker payroll tax costs in the country. This figure is significantly lower than the figures of other Australian jurisdictions. Costs range from $931 per employee in Queensland to close to $1,500 per employee in New South Wales. We have the highest payroll tax threshold in Australia at $1.25 million. These are all compelling figures.

Of course, the real challenge for Canberra is to demonstrate that it is a diverse, attractive and vibrant city which people want to come and live and work in, enjoy and be able to continue to enjoy into the future. The way to do this is to focus on our knowledge economy status. The 2004-05 state of the regions report prepared by the Australian Local Government Association ranks the ACT as having the highest concentration of knowledge-based activity in Australia. It is ranked number one for its knowledge-driven growth potential and is also ranked number one in the global knowledge flows indicator. This means that, out of the entire work force, the ACT has the highest ratio of global knowledge flow workers. Also, the ACT is ranked number one for its connectedness to global flows of knowledge and number one in terms of its innovative capacity.

Canberra was one of five Australian cities included in a recent KPMG study of the locational competitiveness of cities. Other cities studied were Adelaide, Brisbane,

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