Page 1093 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 8 April 2008

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Chief Minister, how do you reconcile these statements with your comments in this place on 6 March 2008 that “the prospects for business and for the ACT economy are extremely good”?

MR STANHOPE: The statements are easily reconciled, as I have just indicated in relation to the Hudson report. It is easy. The Hudson report itself shows that one-third of all ACT businesses intend to employ more staff. The Hudson report itself shows that more than half of all employers in the ACT intend to retain their current levels of staffing.

There are a whole range of other indicators in relation to the strength of the ACT. Of course activity is slowing, because it has reached a record; it has reached a peak. It reached it last year; the highest level of private investment in the ACT since 1987-88, since the last great peak which was actually generated by the construction of the new Parliament House. Over the last few years I think we have had three of the four highest years of private sector investment in the ACT’s history, peaking with the highest ever year, a record year, a year ago.

For it not to slow, you have got to keep going up. And you cannot keep going up. That was actually shown in 1987-88. You cannot actually have a record year year on year on year. Nobody ever does. Name me a jurisdiction, a place or a country in which each record year of investment and economic activity was exceeded the very next year by a new record of investment and economic activity.

We have now had a record year of investment and economic activity—unprecedented—reflected of course in the lowest unemployment in the history of Australia, reflected in the highest participation rates in Australia, reflected in levels of growth experienced only by the major boom states, the commodity states, of Western Australia and Queensland. You cannot keep going up. It is simply impossible.

Of course there has been a moderation in growth. But despite the moderation in growth, we anticipate and are aware that somewhere of the order of $1 billion of commercial construction activity will be pursued and is under way or in the pipeline and will be pursued in each of the next four years. Our advice, the advice of the Property Council and property advisers within the sector, as well as Treasury, is that there is an identifiable $1 billion worth of commercial construction under way or in the pipeline in the ACT—unprecedented levels of private sector investment and confidence in the economy of the ACT.

As I said just yesterday in relation to the latest of the indicators—housing finance approvals for February, year on year—the ACT is on 13.2 per cent, against the national average of, I think, 3.4 per cent. That is the latest of the indicators from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in relation to activity within the ACT—housing finance approvals. I would have thought it was a fairly significant indicator. The ACT led Australia.

Of course we can go to all of the other indicators. I am happy to do that. Our population last year increased at the highest level since 1993, 1.7 per cent. It exceeded the national average.

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