Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 05 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 May 2017) . . Page.. 1447 ..
Our focus will remain on creating and maintaining good jobs for Canberrans. It is at the heart of the government’s agenda, and it is why we will continue to work to strengthen and diversify the economy. (Time expired.)
MS ORR: Are there any risks to the ACT’s strong economic performance?
MR BARR: Certainly there is reason to be concerned about some elements of the federal budget that will be delivered tonight, particularly the National Party’s decentralisation agenda, which has been passively supported by the Prime Minister, who is not in a strong enough position, it would seem, within the joint party room to respond to the outrageous pork-barrelling demands of the National Party.
There are approximately 58,000 Canberrans currently working in Australian public service agencies across the territory. This represents more than a quarter of all employment in this city. If you were to start relocating entire agencies from Canberra, obviously those jobs would be directly lost to Canberra. That is to say nothing of the near $37 billion that the commonwealth contributes to the territory economy. Taking even a fraction of that spending out of Canberra would, of course, be a major blow to the near 26,000 businesses in this city and put their profitability at risk. That would jeopardise local jobs.
Tonight’s commonwealth budget is a major source of risk. We already know that it will include big cuts to the higher education sector, the ACT’s strongest export, which contributes over $2.6 billion annually to our local economy and supports 16,000 jobs in our city.
What else lies in store will be revealed tonight, but we have seen a very worrying trend. At budget time each year, the decisions that are taken by the federal government, particularly decisions to relocate agencies out of Canberra, have a very significant impact on the territory economy.
MS CODY: Chief Minister, how has the ACT government worked to insulate the territory’s economy from external shocks and risks in the past to protect local jobs; and how can the government continue to do so in the future?
MR BARR: We have taken a very active approach to utilising fiscal policy in the territory’s balance sheet to support our economy through difficult times. We understand that the number one priority for Canberrans is to keep them in work. It is the only way to avoid a deeper downturn. That is why the fact that our unemployment rate is as low as it is now is testimony to a number years of extreme focus on jobs, jobs being the number one priority for the government. This is critical to the territory’s population because there is a very strong correlation between the strength of our labour market and how our city grows.
My government will always put jobs first. That is why we will continue to grow the ACT public sector in our budget next month and why we will continue to invest in transformative infrastructure for our city, utilising the territory budget to support good projects that deliver better outcomes for Canberrans and create jobs. That will be our