Page 3468 - Week 11 - Thursday, 15 November 2007

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83 years for women and 79 years for men, was above the national average. We were also highly educated, with 65.5 per cent of people aged 25 to 64 holding post-school qualifications compared with a national average of 55.3 per cent. On the economic front, we attracted a AAA credit rating, ensuring investment confidence and faith in our capacity to manage the economy.

Today, Madam Temporary Deputy Speaker, our population is 338,160, a figure that is approximately 5,000 more than previously estimated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Our growth rate has also increased to 1.185 per cent. Average weekly earnings are now $1,275 compared with $1,073 nationally. We still have the lowest unemployment levels in Australia, with the rate falling to an Australian record low of 2.5 per cent in September 2007 compared with 4.2 per cent nationally. The number of long-term unemployed fell to 600 in July 2006. Most importantly, more than 20,000 jobs have been created over the life of this government. Our life expectancy has continued to increase, rising to 83.9 years for women and 79.9 years for men, compared with 83 years and 78.5 years nationally. The number of people with post-school qualifications also rose to 69.5 per cent of the population aged between 25 and 64. We have retained our AAA credit rating due, in no small part, to the tough decisions we faced in the 2006-07 budget.

The facts are compelling. On virtually all measures, our standard of living has improved, we are earning more, learning more and gaining in health and wellbeing. Our economy is strong and getting stronger. These achievements have all been underpinned by the foundations laid through the Canberra plan and supported by our dual commitments to sound economic management and strong and compassionate social policy.

The Canberra plan features seven strategic themes: investing in our people; building a stronger community; a city for all ages; Canberra’s knowledge future; partnerships for growth; a dynamic heart; and living with the environment, our bush capital. Each of these themes remains as valid today as in 2004. For each theme, we have attained significant achievements.

I am confident that I speak for the whole Canberra community when I say that there can be no higher priority than the first of the strategic priorities: investing in our people. This theme encompasses investment in and support for education and training, health and wellbeing, positive early childhood development, and creativity and innovation.

While there can be no higher priority than investing in our people, there can be no greater investment than the one we make in our children and young people. Recognising this, the government pioneered a model for innovative and integrated service delivery and support for children and families. We have now seen two child and family centres, a flagship commitment of both the Canberra plan and the Canberra social plan, become fully operational in permanent premises in Gungahlin and Tuggeranong.

The government recognises that positive early childhood development is critical in setting the foundation for learning, behaviour and health through the school years and into adult life. We have committed $10 million for the establishment of four new

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