The next six weeks will be critically important for business in the ACT. The Expenditure Review Committee has been meeting; the final report of the Commission of Audit has been delivered and will be released before the 2014- 15 Federal Budget is handed down on 13 May 2014 and a month later on 3 June 2014 the ACT Budget will be delivered.
At the local level, the economic fundamentals in the ACT remain sound but there are warning signs. CommSec’s latest State of the States Report (released 20 January 2014) showed that, while the ACT still had one of the better-performing economies in Australia, it had slipped from second to equal third place and was likely to be overtaken by Queensland before long, making it fourth and no longer one of the top performing economies.
Governments are warning of tough times ahead as they try to rein in spending and return to surplus. Treasurer Joe Hockey has warned that all Australians will have to do the “heavy lifting”.
Where does this leave business in Canberra?
We all know that when savings come from cuts to Federal Government agency budgets, Canberra does more than its fair share of heavy lifting.Cuts to Federal Government spending always have a disproportionately adverse impact on economic activity, and on consumer and business confidence in the ACT – simply because our economy remains highly dependent on Federal Government procurement and employment policies.
Canberra Business Council has identified three main areas as a “wish-list” for potential investment by the Abbott Government in the May 2014 Budget and beyond:
1. Investing in enabling infrastructure
An integrated infrastructure strategy will boost the capital region economy, create jobs and help develop new industries:
• Construct a world-class, highly secure new national convention centre (the Australia Forum) capable of hosting national and international meetings.
• Establish and promote direct international flights to Canberra.
• Invest in hotel, hospitality and transport infrastructure to support the Australia Forum and direct international flights.
• Improve road links between Canberra and other centres across the Capital Region including upgrades to Pialligo Avenue and Canberra Avenue, construction of the Ellerton Drive Extension Ring Road in Queanbeyan; and the duplication and improvement of the Barton, Kings and Monaro Highways.
• Put the first stage – Sydney to Canberra – of an east coast High Speed Rail network to market immediately to test private sector interest and confirm costs.
The ACT is currently home to many world-class research and learning institutions and successful and innovative businesses. In the wake of public sector cuts, it will be important to build on Canberra’s strengths in order to grow these sectors and create new industries:
• Retain and grow a hub of world-class research and learning institutions – such as the Australian National University, the University of Canberra, CSIRO and NICTA, to diversify and develop further as a knowledge economy.
• Establish the ACT as a site for Federal Government funded trials of ICT and digital projects which could seed exportable products or services
• Put robust processes in place to ensure small firms have an opportunity to competitively tender for Federal Government work.
• Support separating APS staff who are looking to start their own business.
3. Recognising Canberra as the national capital
The Federal Government has a responsibility to demonstrate a commitment to maintaining Canberra as a vibrant national capital – the home of our federal government, key national monuments and institutions, and Australia’s cultural history:
• Commit to ongoing growth funding for national cultural institutions.
• Reinstate funding for the National Capital Authority to 2007 levels.
• Commit to retaining Federal Government Departments and Agencies in the ACT. For further details visit.
http://www.canberrabusinesscouncil.com.au/ news-and-publications/article/?id=a-plan-forcanberra- and-the-region