Page 609 - Week 02 - Thursday, 6 March 2008

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MR SPEAKER: Mr Seselja, with a supplementary question.

MR SESELJA: Treasurer, given this decline over the past 18 months, what are you now doing to turn this situation around?

MR STANHOPE: The situation remains incredibly strong. I was just making the point, and I will continue making the point, that the level of state final demand achieved in the ACT over the last year, January to December, was 3.5 per cent. This has attracted the suggestion today by Access Economics and the economics writer for the Canberra Times that the economy in the ACT is stagnant and that it has stalled. That was the language used by Access Economics last November and parroted by the Canberra Times: it had hit the wall and it was a basket case. This was the language of Access Economics and the Canberra Times: the ACT economy has hit the wall, it is a basket case and, today, it is stagnant.

We achieved exactly the same level of state final demand as Victoria, 3.5 per cent. We cannot match Western Australia because we have no minerals. We cannot match Queensland because we have no minerals. But we have exactly the same level of state final demand over the year as Victoria, essentially the new powerhouse, in a non-mineral sense but in a manufacturing and industrial sense, of Australia. We achieved that in the context of state final demand.

But you have to understand, of course, that state final demand in one quarter, the December quarter, is a little snapshot against one indicator for a short period of time. In 2006, state final demand was over 5 per cent. This last year it has been 3.5 per cent. These are extremely good levels of growth—amazingly strong. That is that indicator.

But look at all the other indicators of economic growth. In relation to almost all of those, of course, the ACT continues to lead the nation. What is the No 1 indicator of the strength of an economy? It is the performance of your labour market. It is the No 1 indicator of the strength of your economy—the labour market, the number of people in work, the level of unemployment and the activity that is generated by that.

What is the unemployment record of the Australian Capital Territory? It is 2.3 per cent, almost exactly half that of the national average of 4.3 per cent and far lower than some other jurisdictions in Australia. The fact that here, within the ACT, of a population of 340,000, almost 200,000 are employed. We have 140,000 households, 200,000 people, in work in a population of 340,000, with an unemployment rate of 2.3 per cent—full employment. There are more jobs available to be filled than there are people able and capable of filling them.

Mr Seselja: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: we have now had more than 3 minutes of this. The question was very specific. It was: given the decline in the last 18 months, what was Mr Stanhope going to do to turn these figures around?

MR SPEAKER: Mr Stanhope has got a minute and 30 seconds to answer that.

MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. You need to understand this and you need to put it into context. You need to understand the significance of the full range of economic indicators and what is happening and has happened here within the territory.

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