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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 3 August 2016) . . Page.. 2207 ..

damaged. What is pleasing to see as a result of our policy interventions is that both business and consumer confidence have returned and we have an improved fiscal outlook built around a responsible fiscal policy.

As Mr Hinder’s motion correctly notes, our unemployment rate has fallen to 3.6 per cent, the lowest in the country. That is a significant achievement for this economy given that the major employer has been shedding jobs. Employment growth was a solid 1.5 per cent in 2015-16. This equates to the creation of 3,100 new jobs. Another key indicator, retail trade grew by 4.7 per cent over the 12 months to May 2016, a stronger performance than the national growth rate of 3.4 per cent over the same period. That is a good indicator of consumer confidence.

In the construction industry the number of residential building approvals rose by 35 per cent over the past year, and their value has almost doubled. Importantly, these approvals continue to translate into construction commencements with dwelling commencements for houses or apartments increasing by almost 90 per cent over the past 12 months.

It is not just about what is happening internally in our economy; it is about our national and international engagement. The ACT’s service exports increased by a significant 16.2 per cent in 2015 to reach $1.6 billion. This was the highest growth rate of any Australian state or territory. It was driven particularly by growth in international education exports of 10.3 per cent in 2015, bringing their total value to $451 million for our economy. International tourism exports also grew in 2015 before the direct international flights commenced, increasing by 5.1 per cent to reach $208 million. In 2015 technical, trade-related and other business services, such as engineering, increased by a whopping 35.2 per cent to bring in $165 million for the territory economy.

Over the past five years our service exports have grown by 65 per cent, well above the national average of 30 per cent. My government’s economic policies, particularly focused on exports and international engagement, have delivered significant results for the territory. That is why Mr Smyth is now part of our team working with the government to achieve better outcomes for Canberra. He saw no future in the policies of the Leader of the Opposition and walked out and is now part of implementing this government’s policies, a task I am sure he will do with great distinction.

I note the supportive comments that came from the Leader of the Opposition in relation to Mr Smyth’s appointment. It demonstrated significant bipartisanship on my part to welcome such a qualified applicant. That stands in marked contrast to the position of the federal government, for example, in not even being prepared to nominate a former Australian Prime Minister for the United Nations Secretary-General position, but I digress.

Our economy is transforming. We are creating knowledge-based jobs and our economy’s diversity is making it more resilient to the impacts of the commonwealth’s ongoing cuts to the public service. The most recent state final demand data shows the ACT recorded the highest growth as measured by state final demand of any state or territory, higher than the national average and it comes at a time when many states

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