My Government's priorities for 2017

14 February 2017

Below is the speech I gave to the ACT Legislative Assembly today outlining my Government's vision for the year.

I am pleased to outline the Government’s policy priorities for 2017.

The Government’s plan makes the Canberra we love even better. We’ll support Canberrans when they need help, we’ll invest in infrastructure to keep our city moving and our economy growing, and we’ll deliver stronger schools and hospitals for everyone.

I said during the campaign that the 2016 election would define our city for years to come. Canberrans overwhelmingly supported the clear and positive plan we took to the election, and now after a busy first hundred days we are already delivering on our commitments.

We will realise the full potential of Canberrans and our city by capitalising on our advantages as a smart, liveable, inclusive and connected community.

Delivering on our election promises

Since forming government, we have been getting on with the job, doing what Canberrans elected us to do.

The Parliamentary Agreement for the ninth Legislative Assembly – negotiated between Labor and the Greens Party – sets out a progressive agenda that builds on the positive outcomes of previous agreements and reflects the shared policy program that Canberrans supported.

It covers healthcare, education, an integrated transport network, social housing, housing affordability, inclusivity, protecting the environment and mitigating climate change, among many other key areas.

This is the Government’s commitment to Canberrans. Canberrans continue to want a progressive government and that is what we will deliver.

Over the past 12 weeks, we have worked hard so we can start delivering on our promises.

Among many other pieces of work, we have:
• delivered funding to commence the essential first steps of stage two of the city-defining light rail network;
• become a signatory to the international Under2MoU renewable energy movement;
 purchased green bins for Kambah and Weston Creek, which we’ll soon roll out to registered homes;
• established a new Office for Disability; established an Office of LGBTIQ Affairs, and we are establishing an Office for Mental Health;
 saved the Environmental Defenders Office, and the important work it does, following Federal cuts and local Liberal indifference;
 removed hurdles to increase organ donation rates;
 delivered a strong and effective awareness campaign about the importance of backyard swimming pool safety;
• run a series of welcome activities to make new students feel at home in Canberra; and
• commenced the necessary committee processes to review and improve the Electoral Act and establish an ACT Integrity Commission.

We have started:
• business case work for the new nurse-led walk-in centres;
• work to buy electronic devices for all ACT public high school students; and
• establishing the new urban renewal authority, which will build the future of our CBD.

And that’s just the start.

The Government committed to a range of projects in the election campaign and Canberrans chose us to deliver them.

Our economy is strong and our unemployment rate continues to be low, despite many significant challenges thrown at it over the past few years.

Business confidence continues to grow and we are firm on our commitment to return to a balanced Budget in 2018-19, after we stepped in to protect the local economy after savage federal cuts from 2014 onwards. Our economy is now on a path of stable, strong and diversified growth.

To continue this, the Government is introducing important policies that impact the everyday lives of Canberrans.

By funding the services and infrastructure Canberrans voted for, we are securing a better future for our city.

The mandate for light rail is clear. Canberrans want light rail. Canberrans voted for a north-south spine, linking Gungahlin to Woden, and beyond. Construction of stage one is going well; it’s on schedule and the work to build stage two has commenced.

The procurement of professional services to the ACT Government for stage two is now underway.

These tenders went to market in November and have been well received by industry.

A Labor government will always ensure our education sector has the funding and facilities it needs to deliver education for all.

This government will continue to make Canberra’s schools Safe Schools. Every Canberra student has the right to feel safe at their school, regardless of their gender or sexuality.

We have funded the Safe Schools program. We won’t let the benefits of this program be jeopardised by a backward-looking Coalition Federal Government.

Our arts scene is thriving and we will continue to help it flourish. We have continued funding the Art Not Apart festival.

Floriade is currently our biggest annual tourism event and we want to make it even better. We have funded the inaugural Floriade Fringe, further expanding our arts scene and refreshing our iconic event.

Continuing positive policies

Since I became Chief Minister just over two years ago, the Government and community have worked together to deliver important policy reforms. 2017 will continue this progress.

We have connected Canberra to the world with our first international flights. The business and tourism opportunities that are possible because of this are starting to flow on.

Our universities are major employers that are working together to attract students from around the world, and raising our city’s profile as they rise up international rankings.

Our economy is continuing to diversify, riding out wave after wave of Liberal job cuts to be one of the strongest in the country. Our unemployment rate, at 3.4 per cent, is the lowest in Australia.

Our public transport network is convenient, reliable and affordable, with light rail stage one on the way, free senior and concession off-peak travel commenced in January, and more Rapid Buses due to be added to our network this year.

This is a city that keeps on getting better, and Canberrans recognise it. We are a more nationally and internationally engaged city and Canberrans voted for that to continue.

2017 autumn legislation program

To ensure Canberra continues to be a modern and confident city, the Assembly will consider a range of important pieces of legislation this year.

This legislation puts the needs of Canberrans first and the emphasis continues to be on making Canberra a better place to live, study and work.

Our legislative priorities impact Canberra’s families, how they move around our city, our important natural environment and planning reform, among other areas.

During this sitting week, Minister Ramsay will introduce legislation to strengthen the Government’s response to domestic, family and sexual violence and to promote family safety.

Our response to this area has been nation-leading and we will continue to support those most in need and expand the support services available to them during this term of government

Across future sitting weeks, Minister Ramsay will seek to bring forward a comprehensive Red Tape Reduction package to make government more efficient and effective.

Minister Stephen-Smith will seek to improve the efficiency of legislation that supports the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body, as well as make amendments to support implementation of our Step Up for Our Kids out-of-home-care strategy.

One of our key election commitments to Canberrans was to reduce alcohol-related violence and to improve the vibrancy of Canberra’s night time economy.

Madam Speaker, we are fulfilling our commitments straight away and Minister Ramsay will introduce work to remove unnecessary regulation for the liquor industry in the coming weeks.

To attract high tech health businesses to our city, Minister Fitzharris will seek to bring legislation on gene technologies used in the Territory into line with Commonwealth standards.

To help the introduction of the city-defining light rail network, the Government will introduce transport reform legislation that will enable road users and light rail to jointly exist within Canberra’s road environment, supporting the operation of the light rail network.

Canberra is one of the world’s most liveable cities because of the natural beauties that surround our city. My Government is committed to conserving our environment and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

As part of this commitment to our natural setting, Minister Gentleman will introduce the Nature Conservation Amendment Bill, which will reduce paperwork and strengthen conservation outcomes when minor public works are required in nature reserves.

Linking liveability with our natural environment is a key part of the work my Government will carry out during 2017.

Over the coming months, Minister Berry, Minister Gentleman and I will establish a new urban renewal authority and a new suburban development agency, which will both start their work on 1 July this year.

This is vital work that will showcase cutting edge design in both the urban and suburban environments, while continuing to meet the demands of our growing city in an area of natural beauty.

Minister Gentleman will also introduce work to amend several pieces of legislation within the planning, building and environment portfolio.

Madam Speaker, the Government’s work over the next few months is focused on what Canberrans value most and what they want from their city.

Canberrans want to know their government is listening to them, and working for them. Our debates in this place will have the interests of all Canberrans at their heart.

This ACT Government that I lead is refreshed, it’s reinvigorated and it’s more positive than ever about our city’s future.

My Government was re-elected because of our bold, optimistic long-term vision for Canberra. I will make sure the Government continues to delivers a better Canberra.