Page 1090 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 8 April 2008

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you have half of all employers maintaining their staffing levels and one-third of all employers intending to increase the level of employment.

That is not a bad expression of what business actually thinks about the state of business within the ACT at the moment. Despite their concern about the Howard-Costello legacy, with inflation and interest rate rises, their confidence in the ACT economy remains strong.

There are a range of other labour market indicators that are also particularly strong. The ACT has the second highest labour force participation rate in Australia, after the Northern Territory. And we have had, and continue to have, record levels of unemployment—the lowest level of unemployment ever recorded by a state or territory since the Australian Bureau of Statistics monthly labour force surveys were undertaken.

It is a great tribute to the ACT government—my government—that the economy remains as strong as it is. The only worrying cloud on the horizon is the Howard-Costello Liberal Party interest rate rises.

MR SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mr Seselja?

MR SESELJA: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Chief Minister, what response are you planning to this decline in employer confidence?

MR STANHOPE: The ACT’s economy remains incredibly strong: with private investment in the ACT—I would have thought one of the most significant predictors of confidence over and above employment intentions—we see, as reflected even through this Hudson report, the basis of the question, that half of all businesses in the ACT intend to maintain their current employment levels; one-third intend to increase them. We have near record levels of private investment in the ACT, and the only reason we do not is that last year we had the highest ever level of private investment in the ACT.

Interestingly, as revealed by the Bureau of Statistics I think just yesterday, year on year, February to February, the ACT recorded by far the highest level of housing finance commitments in Australia—13.2 per cent against a national average of, I think, 3.4 per cent. So, if you are looking for indications of strength and of how the ACT economy is performing, look at the most recent set of indicators released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics I think just yesterday. Against a national average in housing finance commitments that increased 3.4 per cent February to February, year on year, the ACT number of housing finance commitments increased by 13.2 per cent—a mile above the national average, the highest in Australia and a great sign that our housing affordability strategy really is beginning to bite.

The ACT economy under my government, as compared to that of the previous government, has continued to prosper. In fact, people within the business community here tell me that they have experienced a period of prosperity and of growth unlike any other that they have ever experienced, and they attribute that to this government and they thank this government for it. I think that is why that most singular, most

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