G2B: Chief Minister’s Message

ACT exports boom as work to diversify economy builds momentum

B2B Editor13 June 2016

ACT exports boom as work to diversify economy builds momentum

In the 1990s the Liberals sacked thousands of Canberrans and the city went into recession. They’ve done the same again in recent years, but the damage has been contained. The city is still moving ahead. There are cranes on the skylines and customers in the shops.

In fact, despite massive job cuts, we have the lowest unemployment of any jurisdiction according to the most recent data.

Exports are also booming according to new international trade figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The ACT Government has had a clear plan for growth in this area and these figures show the success we’ve had in delivering it.

In the 2015 calendar year, the ACT’s total service exports increased by 16.2 per cent compared with the previous year to $1.6 billion. The ACT’s education exports increased by 10.3 per cent to $451 million, accounting for 28.3 per cent of total service exports. International tourism exports increased by 5.1 per cent to $208 million, which was 13 per cent of the total. Other significant exports highlighted by the ABS included business travel ($124 million), research and development (also $124 million), and technical, trade-related and other business services ($165 million), such as engineering services.

The trend figures over the longer term are even more interesting.

International exports (Source ABS)

($’ m) 2001 2015 % growth
1 Education 113 451 299%
2 Tourism 80 208 160%
4 Technical, trade-relatedand other business services 37 165 346%
5 Business travel 31 124 300%
5 Research and developement 9 124 1278%
ACT – Total 555 1,595 187.4%
Australia – Total 34,613 66,162 91.1%

Over 15 years our export growth has been more than double the rest of the nation, creating a secure footing for our economy to withstand external shocks, like our biggest employer laying off thousands of people (without any of the assistance other cities have been given when a similar thing happens, in the car industry, for example).

As Australia’s longest-serving tourism minister, it’s great to see the how the tourism and business travel sectors have flourished thanks to smart investment in targeted marketing, but that is not the most encouraging part.

Anyone who has heard me speak publicly in recent years will be familiar with my emphasis on playing to our strengths as Australia’s knowledge capital. We have world class universities in our city. We have the nation’s most educated population. This is the city that invented Wi-Fi.

My government has invested in policies that help our universities grow and attract international students and as a result we’ve seen enormous growth in education exports – that is international students choosing to come to one of the world’s top 20 student cities.

What is most satisfying of all is the stellar growth in research and development. Canberra’s smart people are bringing in big dollars. The growth in the sector of more than 1000 per cent shows that while some governments might talk about an ideas boom, in the ACT we’re actually delivering one.

The next stage is even more exciting. We know smart innovative businesses follow smart innovative people. In other words, if we make our city somewhere they want to live, a cool capital that is already the world’s most liveable city, we will attract more investment and the companies of the future.

Initiatives like putting a hospital on a university campus, making the city simple to get around with an integrated transport network of light rail and better buses, raising the payroll tax threshold to save small businesses money, securing international flights and cutting red tape for companies and individuals all contribute to this.

These plans, together with our engaged and collaborative private sector, should keep those impressive export figures moving in the right direction.

Andrew Barr
Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)