Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 15 February 2017) . . Page.. 509 ..
need capital to be sourced nationally and internationally. Seeking that capital, that investment in our economy, is a key part of my job as Minister for Economic Development and it is also a key part of my role as Treasurer.
We seek that investment to partner with the ACT government to deliver infrastructure projects. We have seen that investment in the courts project and the light rail project, for example. We will continue to seek that investment in our economy in the years ahead. We do so in an environment where trade in the international arena is coming under some question. With respect to the administration in the United States now, in his first week President Trump tore up the TPP. That agreement that a number of people in this city have worked on for years, together with a range of other free trade agreements, has been and would have been very important to this economy, as Canberra thrives on service exports.
As Mr Steel indicated in his earlier comments, our largest industries outside public administration are those that are actively engaged in exporting services. Total service exports in the 2015-16 fiscal year were worth $1.7 billion to the territory economy, a 13 per cent increase on the previous year. Paul Keating would describe such figures as, “We’re exporting our heads off.” I recall from my university days that he would talk about the importance for the Australian economy of exports.
This economy has been growing its service exports faster than the Australian average, and it has been doing so consistently for an extended period of time. Members would be familiar with the fact that the largest single export for the territory is education. The rapid growth of our higher education institutions is not only a fantastic thing for our city socially and culturally, but it is a significant economic contributor.
That is why it has been so disappointing in recent times that all of the measures that the government has brought in, legislative and otherwise, to support the growth of our higher education sector have been opposed by those opposite. The measures to allow the University of Canberra to rapidly expand, the special economic zone that has effectively been created for the university to support its expansion and our investments on that university’s campus have all been opposed by the Liberal Party. With respect to their credibility on matters of economic diversification, when it actually comes to supporting measures that practically support the largest sector of our economy in terms of being outside the public sector, it has not been forthcoming, which is disappointing.
We can look across the various measures of the performance of our economy, be it the rate of employment growth, the low unemployment rate and strong retail trade figures. The one area where I think there is cause for concern—and it is not just here in Canberra but across the nation—has been the anaemic rate of wages growth in our economy. This is undoubtedly an agenda being run by the federal government in relation to their own wage negotiations, but its implications across the Australian economy more broadly have been quite detrimental, including in terms of the commonwealth’s own budget. They remain in significant deficit, and one of the major contributing factors has been that their revenues are not growing as strongly as they had forecast, and that is largely because of anaemic wage growth.