Page 3494 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 21 September 2005

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where we could attract more people to help us with our skill needs. I think Australia has had a reluctance in some of these areas, through our embassies, to show an enthusiasm to bring people in from these parts of the world.

On the weekend, I had a call from a friend in Brazil who told me that Australia was actively encouraging people to come here and study. That is a great thing, and it is a very profitable business. But I think we have to be a little more serious and go further than simply saying, “Bring your wallet.” We need to tap into the educated people in some of these developing countries and try to get them into our country, and Canberra needs to have its hand up high and say, “Look after Canberra. Let us develop this city. We have the educational skills, we have the capacity to grow and we want our fair share of the pie.” I encourage the government to take a more visible role in immigration policy and put that plea to the commonwealth, because I think we need to find new sources of labour and people with skills to ensure our businesses have a bright future and do not move into the larger population market so that they can continue to expand.

One of the main factors limiting business and economic growth in Canberra is clearly the shortage of skilled people. Speakers at the recent business summit entitled “Beyond the Canberra plan” highlighted skills shortages as the most important issue of the time. The causes of the skills shortage identified at the business summit were varied, but they included the loss of highly educated young people because, in their words—not necessarily ones I immediately agree with—they believe that many young people see our city as dull. Some felt there were not the opportunities here. There was also a belief that the government is not a pro-business type of government. That is a view that I hear expressed in many other parts of Australia when people reflect on the image that we have in the ACT. As we have discussed in the context of the trees debate, it is a government that seems very keen to regulate to extremes.

Speakers at that summit said that the perception that the territory government is not friendly to business had been compounded by different legislation brought in by the government. Examples were cited in a number of areas. The industrial manslaughter legislation was cited as one of the negative legislative examples. I know that Mr Corbell just dismissed all that today and said that it is not an issue, but it is an issue and it is an issue of concern when the territory government feels that it is a populist role to go down the road of targeting people such as company directors without looking at the entire equation as to what contributes to these situations.

It was seen as symptomatic of an anti-business attitude, despite being portrayed by the government as a supposedly positive step. Remedies for negligent employers were already in place and the need for more draconian laws aimed at directors had never been demonstrated. Labor’s obsession with portability of long service leave does nothing to promote Canberra as a forward thinking and economically responsible jurisdiction. It gives the impression that we are captives in this city of a segment of the trade union movement.

Some speakers at the conference said that, if we are to attract businesses to Canberra and to retain our existing enterprises, modifications to payroll tax—and I say modifications, not abolition, as the Chief Minister tried to claim and tried to spin, because he does like to verbal—and stamp duties on business need examination. Rather than slavishly following New South Wales, we should set ourselves apart from other states and

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