Below is my speech to the Legislative Assembly outlining the ACT Government's priorities for 2020. You can view it here.
Through 2020, the ACT Government will continue to deliver our plan for a better Canberra.
That’s what Canberrans want and deserve from their Government.
The smoke and fires affected Canberrans’ lives, and well as produced significant economic aftershocks.
The long-term impacts on our economy, and our local businesses won’t be apparent for some time.
Despite this, Madam Speaker, Canberra continues to be a growing city. Our population is growing; our economy is growing; employment is growing; long term tourism is growing; and investment is growing.
Today, we account for the largest share of the national economy in our history.
The ACT economy is now worth almost $42 billion – larger than both Tasmania and the Northern Territory – and is one of the fastest growing economies in the nation.
Over the past four years, 3,200 new business have established and 19,600 new jobs have been created.
But our city is much more than our strong economic data.
We are a city that is environmentally sustainable, lively, progressive and inclusive.
We are a welcoming place where people want to come to work, live and raise a family.
We believe that the ultimate goal of our economic, social and environmental policies should always be to enhance the collective wellbeing of our community.
That is why, last year, I announced the development a set of wellbeing indicators to help guide government decision-making and our priorities for the future.
These indicators will help us measure how Canberra is performing based on what Canberrans believe is necessary to live a quality life.
Next month, I will announce the full detail of our new wellbeing framework, which, from this year on, will be reported against as part of the annual Budget process.
In the health portfolio, Minister Stephen-Smith will continue the important work already underway to deliver our $500 million critical care and emergency facility – known as the SPIRE project – at the Canberra Hospital.
The facility will deliver more beds and operating theatres; a new and expanded intensive care unit; a new and expanded emergency department; a new mental health short stay unit; and more.
And we will hire more nurses, doctors and staff to deliver these services.
We are also expanding the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children to deliver more specialist facilities for new mothers and their babies.
The expansion will also include an adolescent mental health unit.
The SPIRE project and the upgrades to the Centenary Hospital, will be the largest expansion of the Canberra Hospital since it opened, ensuring the public healthcare a growing city needs.
And later this year we will also open our newest walk-in centre in Dickson – creating a network of five walk-in centres in Tuggeranong, Belconnen, Gungahlin, Weston Creek and the Inner North.
These investments will futureproof our healthcare system and ensure we are able to deliver the healthcare services Canberrans need when and where they need them.
The Southside Community Step Up Step Down is expected to be operational by July this year.
This will be the fourth facility of its kind in the ACT, demonstrating our commitment to building our community-based mental health support capacity to prevent relapse and assist recovery from an acute episode of mental illness.
The Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing has conducted a review to understand why mental health conditions remain a high concern for young people in the ACT, with the findings due for release in March 2020.
The Office will use these findings to support children and young people to enhance their mental health and wellbeing, and to also prevent more severe illness.
Later this year, the Deputy Chief Minister will release our Early Childhood Strategy which outlines our plan to ensure every child in the ACT has the best start in life through equitable access to high quality early childhood education and care.
This important document will also outline the first, targeted phase of our commitment to provide free pre-school to three-year-olds in the ACT.
We will also continue our significant invest in public education infrastructure.
This will include commencing construction on the new $47 million primary school at Denman Prospect, the commencement of planning works for a new high school in East Gungahlin, and a $29.5 million expansion of the Franklin Early Childhood Centre.
Continuing in Minister Berry’s portfolio, 2020 will mark the second year of our $100 million Public Housing Growth and Renewal Program, which will grow our public housing stock by 200 dwellings and renew a further 1,000 existing properties.
I am also pleased to report that Molonglo residents will be able to begin using the Stromlo Leisure Centre later this year.
In the transport portfolio, we will take the next step in delivering on our vision for a well-connected Canberra when we sign the contract and begin preparatory work on Light Rail Stage 2A from the City to Commonwealth Park.
Since it commenced in April last year, light rail has been a huge success with Canberrans, smashing predicted passenger numbers. To date we have had 3.5 million boardings.
There is no doubt that this was the right investment, at the right time, for Canberra.
This year, we look forward to the process commencing on Stage 2A which will expand our light rail network from the City, over the lake, through the Parliamentary triangle and down to the Woden town centre.
Minister Steel will also lead the rollout of the Territory-wide bulky waste collection service in the Territory.
This comes off the back of the Government successfully completing a Territory wide green bin rollout ahead of schedule, and the delivery of a container deposit scheme in the ACT.
As our city grows, we are also investing in the services Canberrans need.
This summer has shown the capability of a well-resourced emergency services agency.
In the coming months, Minister Gentleman will unveil the ACT’s two newest firefighting vehicles, and we will also provide more funding to our bush firefighting capabilities.
Madam Speaker, we are also providing our Rural Fire Service and the SES with the resources they need to keep us safe.
I think every Canberran rests easier at night knowing we are being looked after by our amazing emergency services personnel, led by Commissioner Georgeina Whelan.
They deserve our deepest thanks and appreciation.
With the Orroral Valley Fire continuing to burn in the Namadgi National Park, but with significant rain over the weekend, we are now moving into a significant effort to repair the devastating ecological damage done in this region.
Minister Gentleman directed the evacuation of endangered wildlife in Tidbinbilla in advance of the fire, to save local populations from complete destruction.
The Minister will now be coordinating Government efforts to support the regeneration of the landscape in the Namadgi National Park, and the ultimate return of our wildlife, as well as any repair work required to Government infrastructure and assets.
This work has already begun.
On Friday, Minister Gentleman announced the establishment of a rapid risk assessment team that comprises specialists in how fire impacts may be addressed for threatened species, habitat, water quality and threats from debris flow as a result of rain.
Given the Minister Gentleman’s responsibilities as for emergency services, planning and environment, I have asked him to oversee the Government’s recovery and resilience efforts. I will be amending the Administrative Arrangements to specifically reference this important role over coming months.
In the Attorney-General’s portfolio, Minister Ramsay will take an important step towards making Canberra a more inclusive and age-friendly city by providing more protections for vulnerable members of our community.
We have heard from the Aged Care Royal Commission the deeply disturbing stories of older Australians being exposed to unthinkable abuse and neglect.
Our move to introduce an offence for elder abuse will be an Australian first and will be an important step in our plan to make Canberra a leading restorative city.
Minister Ramsay will also continue to implement our goal of ensuring that into the future Canberra has the highest quality buildings and the highest confidence in building quality.
There is no place in the ACT for builders who cut corners, deliver poor quality or non-compliant work, flout approvals or who fail to rectify issues in a timely manner.
We will not let dodgy builders avoid their obligations.
On a more positive notice about construction, I am pleased to say that the business case for the new Canberra Theatre Precinct will be delivered this year.
This important document represents the next step in delivering a major cornerstone of our plan to make Canberra a national hub of creativity and innovation in the arts – a place where creative people can pursue their passions and make a contribution to the rich fabric of our society.
The newest member of our Cabinet also has a busy year ahead establishing WorkSafe ACT as an independent agency – ensuring it works effectively to keep Canberrans safe in their workplaces.
Minister Orr will also continue working on the introduction of a labour hire licensing scheme to foster and promote responsible practices in the ACT, and on an important body of work to make Canberra a more disability inclusive city.
Finally, Madam Speaker, having released two nation leading strategies on climate change and living infrastructure, we are now getting on with the job of implementation.
Madam Speaker, the city of Canberra is now sourcing our electricity by 100% renewable energy. Every electric appliance plugged into a household socket is running on clean energy.
This however is just the start of the ACT’s efforts to reduce the Territory’s impact on our climate.
We will also continue to work towards our target of zero net emissions by 2045 – a significant and nation leading target.
Minister Rattenbury will also continue to implement our ACT Zero Emissions Vehicles Action Plan, which will see our passenger vehicle fleet transition to zero emissions.
We already have 51 zero emissions vehicles in our passenger fleet and this year we will add a further 29 electric vehicles, bringing the total fleet to 80 and meeting our target of 50 per cent newly leased passenger vehicles being zero emissions.
Madam Speaker, the work I have outlined today is only a small part of what we are doing across all areas of the government to fulfil our commitment to Canberrans.
2020 is the year in which Canberrans will be asked to make a choice about out city’s direction for the first half of the decade.
Canberra’s success will be determined by the decisions and actions we take this year.
We are committed to investing in and growing our services and infrastructure to ensure they continue to meet the community’s expectations and needs.
This means access to healthcare when and where you need it; access to a great local school not far from where you live; and access to a fast and efficient public transport network.
By investing today, we will ensure our hospitals, healthcare centres, schools, social infrastructure and transport network are ready for the decade ahead.
Now is not the time to send our city backwards.
Our growing city needs new and better public infrastructure.
Our community expects world class public services and they need good secure jobs in the future. And this Government is committed to delivering just that.