Page 979 - Week 03 - Thursday, 28 February 2013

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This government has a proud record of proactive policies and responsible budgeting to support jobs. First and foremost, we have ensured that the ACT economy has grown strongly. Economic growth in the ACT has remained robust, despite the challenges posed by the commonwealth’s contraction. Gross state product in the ACT grew 3.5 per cent in 2011-12 and is forecast to grow by 2.25 per cent this year.

We have done this through maintaining spending on front-line services, responsible budgeting, and record spending on infrastructure, and by targeted support for our private sector. The last ACT budget allocated $1.7 billion for capital works in the territory. This is funding the new facilities such as roads, schools and health infrastructure that our community needs. It is not only creating thousands of construction jobs but also bringing health and education jobs into the suburbs as new schools and health centres are built. This spending has helped maintain employment and economic activity in the face of the commonwealth’s contraction.

But it is not only infrastructure and service from this government that is ensuring growth for the territory. We are also supporting other drivers of our economy to grow and create jobs. In the last budget we cut payroll tax. The ACT now has the most competitive taxation regime for small and medium-sized businesses. Due to the cut to payroll tax, the ACT has the highest payroll tax threshold in the nation, and is the lowest taxing jurisdiction for businesses with a payroll of up to $4.7 million. Crucially, businesses can now employ more people before paying tax.

Our business development strategy is helping the private sector to create jobs by providing targeted support, programs and funding to local businesses. The 2012-13 budget included $20 million for innovative programs to further boost our private sector. To outline just a few initiatives, we are expanding InnovationConnect to further support early-stage business innovation; we are building new funding for clean technology and sustainability oriented companies, and for major proposals on new innovation infrastructure; we are creating the GlobalConnect program to act as a single portal for trade development activities; and we are making it easier for business to move through the processes to set up or expand their operations here. All these initiatives will support the ACT private sector and help it to grow and create jobs.

Importantly, we have not opted for the scorched earth approach taken by Liberal governments elsewhere in Australia, notably in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, where thousands upon thousands of public servants have been sacked. For those who advocate a slash-and-burn approach to budgeting and the sacking of workers, and for those who cannot wait to see a potential Abbott government slash 20,000 jobs from Canberra, it is worth reflecting on just why maintaining a low unemployment rate is important.

First, keeping people in work always helps alleviate pressure on community services and charity organisations, and on people seeking help from government. Further, a strong employment base helps create a vibrant city. More people in work means more economic activity—more people spending on our local businesses, using services, visiting restaurants and shops. Meanwhile, joblessness imposes a high social cost—on

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