In late March, I delivered my first major speech to the ACT’s business sector on the state of the territory. My speech highlighted the government’s renewed vision for our city- with investment in infrastructure and an urban renewal agenda designed to reinvigorate the nation’s capital. I am committed to this vision as it will continue the city’s growth and help us manage the turbulent financial times we are currently facing.
While the cuts to the Commonwealth public service have undoubtedly hurt the territory, the efforts made by both the ACT Government and the private sector have contributed to the highly resilient economy which we currently have.
The recent ‘snAPShots December 2014’ showed the Australian Government has cut nearly 16,000 jobs since June 2012, with 8,021 of those cuts made here in the nation’s capital. Once combined with the cuts across other services the Abbott government has made, like our health and community services sector and the threats made to the education sector, it has been challenging for the territory to sustain growth and keep our economy ticking over.
Yet the effort by the ACT Government has helped keep the nation’s capital from falling into recession. Over the period that 8,021 APS positions were lost, total employment across the economy only fell by 2,626 – suggesting that nearly 5,400 non- APS jobs were created during the same period.
The renewed commitment of my government to support our private sector through investment in capital infrastructure projects and our refusal to cut ACT Government services has made a significant contribution to our current economic position. Yet I want to see the government going even further to support the private sector during these difficult times.
During my ‘State of the Territory’ speech, I outlined plans to establish a Small Business Research Partnerships Program which will see a proportion of government procurement funds allocated to working with our innovative local businesses. The program will allow our smart small businesses to assist government through practical and innovative solutions to common problems that can then be sold to other clients outside of the territory. Similar models have been highly successful in the United States. I am confident that smart procurement can stimulate our small business sector and make the ACT a global leader in providing innovative services to government.
This initiative will be part of the government’s next Business Development Strategy. I recently reported to the Assembly that all 26 Business Development targets we set ourselves in the previous strategy have been achieved. This included measures to attract foreign investment and skilled migrants, grow our export capabilities, partner with our tertiary education institutions to commercialise research and maximise the value of the visitor economy.
It is the goal of the ACT government to continue supporting the territory’s private sector, allowing our economy to diversify and become less reliant on the Commonwealth. Our actions over the last ten years have ensured that the Capital is in a much better position to handle the tough economic climate we now face, but there is more work to be done. I look forward to working closely with our private enterprises on measures to support growth in the sector as we begin to finalise the 2015-16 ACT Budget.
Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)