Page 3221 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 23 August 2017

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MS ORR (Yerrabi) (12.25): I rise today to speak in support of Mr Pettersson’s motion. As a member for Yerrabi, this motion is highly relevant to my electorate and its residents. The Gungahlin region has seen remarkable growth in recent years. The 2016 census found that Gungahlin was the second fastest growing region in the country between 2011 and 2016. With more new suburbs in the early stages of development, population growth in my electorate is expected to continue into the near future. This growth presents significant challenges for how we plan and deliver our services.

Population growth of this magnitude requires ongoing government investment in both enabling infrastructure and the capacity to provide public services. This is necessary to ensure that public amenities can be accessed by new residents while maintaining access for the existing population. This is a clear challenge in many parts of Canberra but particularly so in Yerrabi. While population growth in the new suburbs of the electorate has been staggering, and will continue to be so, the established suburbs remain stable. It is imperative therefore for the ACT government to have the vision and understanding to enable the expansion of services to meet the needs of new Canberrans without taking away from those already here.

To do that takes investment in the things that matter: infrastructure, schools and health care. These are all the things that Labor stands for and believes in. They are all areas where this government made significant investment in this year’s budget. I spoke last week on the importance of investing in school facilities and I reiterate that here today. The need for lifelong learning to ensure ongoing workforce participation and employment opportunities may never have been more important. The link between educational attainment and labour participation is well established. This is particularly noticeable in the ACT.

Unemployment here is well below the national average while our participation rate is one of the highest in the country. This is not just what the latest ABS figures tell us but a reality of the territory that is backed up by years of data. ACT workers have the highest average weekly earnings rate of any state or territory. It is education that provides the anchor to these outcomes, with Canberrans having the highest educational attainment on average in the country. A well-paid, well-educated and highly-employable workforce does not just happen by accident. It takes a commitment from the government of the day to invest in its people. It is a commitment ACT Labor has always stood for in the belief that an education is the best path to opportunity.

In this year’s budget, ACT Labor reaffirmed that commitment to education in the ACT, delivering on its election promise to upgrade facilities in our schools: $210 million in new funding for local schools was announced, which is in addition to the $1.2 billion this government provides for schools each year; and $24 million in funding will be invested in schools infrastructure in Gungahlin to deliver 800 additional places for students by 2021. Harrison School, Gold Creek School, Neville Bonner Primary School and Palmerston District Primary School will all receive funding to increase student capacity.

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