Page 1793 - Week 05 - Thursday, 2 April 2009

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When you look at the areas where they are not spending, they are not spending in department stores and they are not spending in other retailing.

Mr Smyth: So the stimulus package has failed?

MS GALLAGHER: Well, I think what you will see is the fact that retail spending in the ACT picked up in December and January and then eased slightly in February, which strengthens the federal Treasurer’s argument about the importance of the December stimulus package and the importance of the second $42 billion stimulus package, which will start flowing following April this year. We expect that the $900 going to many millions of Australians will have some impact on retail sales figures once that money is out.

The issue here is that the ACT economy is holding up better than others—

Mr Smyth: So retail sales is healthy?

MS GALLAGHER: Yes, retail sales are slightly down this year, but over the year they are still maintaining positive figures. I would have to say that perhaps the single biggest reason at the moment is consumer confidence. That is what I put it down to. I think I would have broad Assembly support for that position.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Smyth, a supplementary question?

MR SMYTH: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Treasurer, as the ACT is in recession, what will be the effect of this fall in retail sales on the ACT economy?

MS GALLAGHER: I think any fall in retail sales is not going to be positive for the ACT economy. The fact that consumer confidence seems to be the issue here might mean that the lesson for the Treasurer is that perhaps, instead of talking it down, we actually say that a 0.5 per cent reduction, as opposed to much larger reductions in other states, is actually good for the ACT and shows that the underlying strength and the fact that incomes are traditionally higher here—average incomes are higher here—and still rising compared with expenditure at the moment means that people are being a little cautious.

What we should be doing is saying that our economy remains strong. The ACT government remains willing to invest. We are taking a very cautious approach in this budget about our responses to dealing with our financial position precisely so that we can instil in the community a level of confidence which then flows on to other areas of the economy. That is how I interpreted these retail sales figures. We would prefer to see positive numbers and we would prefer not to see a decline in retail trade. Actually, when you look at the rest of Australia and when you look at the rest of the world, these figures are not that bad.


MR HANSON: My question is to the Treasurer. Treasurer, what action is the Stanhope-Gallagher government taking with respect to implementing microeconomic reform in the ACT?

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