Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 March 2009) . . Page.. 1298 ..
creating jobs. It is about maintaining jobs in an environment where we know there will be enormous pressure on employment.
At this stage, it is really counterintuitive that the unemployment rate in the ACT has dropped from 2.6 per cent to 2.4 per cent over this last month. That really is quite remarkable for the environment we are in where the national unemployment rate jumped from 4.6 per cent to 5.2 per cent. We fell from 2.6 per cent to 2.4 per cent. That is a result, I think, that took everybody that had been looking at the numbers by some surprise.
But the great challenges that we face in the environment we are in—namely, a global financial crisis, a crisis which has escaped the notice of the Liberal Party—are the predictions that unemployment in the ACT will, over this next year to 18 months, potentially grow to 5.2 per cent. Access Economics and the ACT Treasury accept that unemployment will grow and grow significantly in the ACT over the next 18 months, potentially doubling, potentially growing to around five per cent, perhaps to 5.2 per cent.
The great challenge for all of us is to seek to protect jobs to the greatest extent possible. It will be a great achievement if we can keep unemployment below five per cent over this next two years. The government are determined to do everything we can reasonably do within the constraints of our budget to achieve that. We would look for and appreciate the cooperation of members of this Assembly in seeking to achieve that, rather than having the economy constantly talked down, rather than being greeted with opposition for opposition's sake, rather than having serious initiatives pursued by the government treated with hilarity and contempt and great guffaws from a very immature and not engaged opposition in this place. That is what the government is looking for, Mrs Dunne.
It is not about me saying this one initiative will create a job. The installation of a speed sign is hardly likely to create a job, but it will create activity. It will drive the capacity of a particular group of employers within the ACT to maintain their employment rates. That, essentially, is the thrust of everything that the government have been seeking to achieve. We are seeking to stabilise employment. We are seeking to provide confidence and stability to industry and all employers throughout the ACT. We are seeking to reduce the level of unemployment, which we know from all of our advice, will grow. Unemployment will increase over the next year to 18 months. It will possibly potentially double. It will go from the existing 2.4 per cent to potentially 5.2 per cent or thereabouts.
We are doing everything we can as a government with the resources available to us to provide the stability and the confidence that we can provide to ensure that employers in the ACT know that there will be a certain level of activity; there will be a certain and continuing level of investment by the ACT government. In the context of our budget, the size of our budget, the level of our discretionary expenditure, the expenditure we have available around the edge after we take out, for instance, one-third of our entire budget to meet our health care needs, there is only so much that an ACT government of any persuasion at any time can do. We are working hard as a government to do everything within our power. That means providing confidence,