Page 1136 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 8 April 2008

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ACT economy is a strong and resilient economy. It has the capacity to absorb the impacts that will occur as a result of the budgetary reforms of the current commonwealth government. Just like the Rudd Labor government is having to do now, this government made some hard decisions in its 2006-07 budget, and the ACT economy is enjoying those benefits derived through a surplus budget.

Some facts might convince the opposition spokesperson that the ACT economy is resilient, though they still will not resist the temptation to talk the economy down. The ACT’s gross state product rose by five per cent in real terms in 2006-07, higher than the national GDP growth rate of 3.2 per cent. Year on year to November 2007, Australian weekly ordinary time earnings in the ACT rose by 4.9 per cent. Nationally Australian weekly ordinary time earnings rose by 4.5 per cent.

In trend terms the number of residential building approvals in the ACT in February 2008 was 200, up 5.8 per cent from the previous months. This is higher than the five-year monthly average number of approvals for the ACT. Year on year to February, the number of approvals in the ACT rose by 13.2 per cent. A final statistic that looks at the retail trade indicates that, while the ACT is doing well, there is evidence emerging of the impact of interest rate rises directly attributable to the Howard-Costello Liberal legacy of economic mismanagement.

Year on year, growth in retail turnover in the ACT has grown steadily, reaching a high of 8.2 per cent in May 2007. However, this trend has reversed in recent months, with year-on-year growth to February 2008 moderating to 5.5 per cent. This trend follows three increases in official interest rates of 0.25 per cent each in August and November 2007 and February 2008—surprise, surprise!

Further, more Canberrans than ever are currently employed, with unemployment at a record low of 2.4 per cent. We have a unique situation in the territory where there are still more vacant positions than there are people unemployed. I understand that the Chief Executive of the ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Chris Peters, has been quoted recently as saying that the private sector in the ACT could easily and readily absorb 1,000 jobs.

I took the opportunity to see what policy contribution the shadow Treasurer has made to the debate on the Rudd Labor government’s responsible economic commitment to bringing down a surplus budget. Mr Smyth’s recent media releases indicate that we should be doing more to diversify the ACT economy as well as investing in infrastructure, but that is the extent of the Liberal Party’s policy in relation to economic diversification—that is, that we should diversify the economy and invest in infrastructure. That, I think, is the Liberal Party’s business policy.

The ACT has 25,000 private sector businesses in our economy, and private sector employment now exceeds public sector employment levels. I acknowledge that the ACT does have a limited economic base. Our population is largely urban. There is limited agricultural and manufacturing activity and mining is negligible. We do not have access to the natural resources of other states such as Queensland and Western Australia, which are currently enjoying the benefits of the resources boom. So whilst opposition members may have ideals about the need to diversify the ACT’s

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