Page 2923 - Week 09 - Thursday, 18 August 2005

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We have already seen some early signs that industry segments such as technology will suffer very quickly if we lose educated young people. I see that problem growing if we cannot come up with some very clever solutions. When Mark McConnell talked about demographic proportionality his view was that we must establish targets, look at retraining the older work force and increasing their participation. We have to challenge norms; we have to look at things such as workplace flexibility to accept people’s interest and willingness in going back into the work force. We also have to ensure that we have a business-friendly environment.

It was regrettable that the Minister for Economic Development and Business was not able to hear the wonderful papers delivered at this business summit. I would urge him to have his people brief him on the content of those papers. I am also sorry that the Chief Minister was unable to be there for any significant length of time. Rather than just getting the media takes on this event, he would have seen the very genuine commitment people pursued in bringing forth their papers. We talk about the ACT being unashamedly a pro-business environment and that we have to give credence to the claims made by the government and ensure that policies are reflective of those claims. Regrettably for the people of Canberra, those words really do not mean too much if we do not see them translating into strengthening our population base in the ACT, tempered with good economic growth and good levels of employment.

Mr Corbell claimed credit for just about everything in the town a moment ago and could see no failings. There is obviously no admission of anything not working perfectly, but there are alarming signs there if we see these rates of growth. Many of us claim credit locally. Last night I heard the Prime Minister say that, when things are going well, state and territory governments claim credit and that, when things are going badly, they blame the commonwealth government. Things are going very well at the moment and I am expecting that the ACT government will be claiming all the credit for the tremendous reforms we have seen nationally which we will continue to see and from which the people of the ACT continue to benefit.

I think there was an opportunity lost in that ministers did not make a better effort to attend the Canberra Business Council summit. Speakers talked about the great potential for economic growth. People such as John Hindmarsh spoke at that event; his focus was on the convention centre. Yesterday, we had some discussion on the convention centre. I have long had an interest in this area of activity. I think it is lamentable that we are going through the process of refurbishing that facility; we will not have any more exhibition space.

I have said in committee meetings and the like that people only have to get on a plane and go to Adelaide to learn how it is done. In a city that is not necessarily abundant with major tourist attractions, the South Australian facility has an incredible level of usage. It is booked out virtually throughout the year for many national conventions. They have realised how critical the convention centre is to the viability of their local tourism industry. As John Hindmarsh mentioned at the conference, the flow-on effect of tourism is colossal. It impacts on transport, catering and other key suppliers and can even flow into the construction sector where he has made his name.

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