Page 154 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 14 February 2018

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about five to 10 years sooner than earlier demographic models might have predicted. This has necessitated a significant infrastructure program to meet that future population growth and to ensure that the quality of life that Canberrans enjoy—that is, the best in the world—is maintained and, indeed, enhanced where possible.

We have made significant investments in transport infrastructure, our health system, our education system and community and municipal services and infrastructure in order to meet the needs of not only the existing 410,000 residents as measured by the ABS in the 2016 census but looking ahead over the next five to 10 years. With population growth of somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 a year expected, we will very quickly reach half a million people.

A variety of priority infrastructure projects has been funded in the 2017-18 budget and, in some instances, projects are brought forward or feasibility and forward design accelerated through the budget update. As we move into the 2018 budget round and with an expected increase in the rate of population growth with 10,000 new jobs created in the city last year and the very strong correlation between the strength of Canberra’s labour market and the rate of population growth, there is every reason to anticipate very strong need for infrastructure spending in the coming decade. We are making the investments now as well as restoring the territory’s fiscal position. (Time expired.)

MS CHEYNE: Chief Minister, how are the government’s investments in Canberra contributing to a strengthening economy and more job opportunities for Canberrans?

MR BARR: We saw economic growth as measured by GSP of 4.6 per cent in the 2016-17 fiscal year. Jobs growth was in that order as well. This, as I say, is expected to continue over the short to medium term. Ten thousand new jobs for Canberrans during 2017 is a significant achievement for the territory economy. We are now at a point where, with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, the number of job vacancies is roughly equal to the number of unemployed people in the city at this point in time.

There is no doubt that we are going to see skill shortages in some areas and we are going to see some upward pressure on wages in certain industries. That, I think, is a very positive thing for aggregate demand in the economy. We certainly look forward to seeing some wage increases. The biggest employer in the city would contribute to that, and certainly should contribute to that, through the successful conclusion, one would hope, of some better EBAs. We look forward to finalising our own, with our workforce, in the first part of this year.

MR STEEL: Chief Minister, why is delivering a balanced budget important to the ACT’s capacity to continue investing as our city grows?

MR BARR: The ACT has a very strong balance sheet, being one of only three states and territories in the nation with a AAA credit rating, and we do pay very close attention, in the setting of the territory’s budget each year, to the strength of our balance sheet, our net financial liabilities and of course the territory’s debt profile.

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