Page 611 - Week 02 - Thursday, 6 March 2008

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territory’s labour market. We have the second highest labour force participation rate in Australia, behind only the Northern Territory, and we have the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded by an Australian state or territory since the Australian Bureau of Statistics began to collect statistics. The current level of unemployment in the ACT is the lowest recorded in Australia since the Australian Bureau of Statistics began to keep statistics around the labour force.

The unemployment rate in January, as I said, was 2.3 per cent against a national average of 4.3 per cent. The participation rate, which is just as important in the ACT, is 72 per cent—six percentage points higher than the national position of just over 65 per cent. The latest employment data shows that 188,700 ACT residents were employed in January 2008, an increase since January 2007—and it would be much higher, if only there were people to employ.

The latest data relating to the earnings of people is significant. This goes to the strength of an economy, and gives an indication of how an economy is performing: how are those people that are employed being paid? Average weekly earnings in the ACT to November were 5.4 per cent above the national average. Just ask people working in the ACT how they think the ACT economy is performing. Just ask them whether they think the economy is stagnant. Virtually almost everybody in the ACT who wants a paid job has a paid job, with average weekly earnings having increased by 5.4 per cent over the last year—average weekly earnings that are significantly higher than in the rest of Australia.

Let us look at investment—the major indicator of confidence in an economy. Let us look at what has happened in the ACT over the last couple of years. Yes, the volume of private investment in the ACT did fall in the December quarter, and that was essentially the major contributor to the change in state final demand. But the volume of investment in the December quarter was still extremely high, still matching or exceeding long-term averages at $861 million. That is only relatively down on the record of just under $1.2 billion that was achieved in that record year. We have dropped a couple of hundred million dollars, but we are still seeing a level of investment that is high, and that we expect to continue for a number of years.

Let us look at the performance of the housing market in the ACT for the last year. Let us see whether there are indicators of a stagnant economy or one that has hit the wall. The number of new housing finance commitments in the year to December 2007 was up by 15.7 per cent. The national increase was 2.4 per cent. Just tell me whether that is a sign of a stagnant economy—a 15.7 per cent increase in housing starts as against a national average of 2.4 per cent. Residential building approvals are up by 10 per cent as against a two per cent national increase. (Time expired.)

MR SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Ms MacDonald?

MS MacDONALD: Yes, thank you, Mr Speaker. Treasurer, based on this, can you please advise what the prospects and outlook for business are from the ACT economy?

MR STANHOPE: I thank Ms MacDonald for her interest in the truth. The prospects for business and for the ACT economy are extremely good. The confidence that

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