I am pleased to outline the Government’s policy priorities for 2018.
Since the 2016 election, we have been getting on with the job Canberrans elected us to do.
Across our priorities of expanding access to public health services, better schools and facilities for our kids, a transport system that caters for a growing city, better and tidier suburbs and a strong, job-creating economy, we’re making the Canberra we love even better.
This will continue in 2018. The ACT Government will focus on strengthening our city and supporting our community.
A year of opportunity
Canberrans are the happiest, healthiest, longest-living, and best educated Australians.
This city is the best place in the world to live, and in 2018, Canberra is recognised as one of the best places in the world to visit.
But this success doesn’t happen by accident, and we don’t maintain it by luck. We know we need to continue to diversify our economy and support more job creation for Canberrans from all backgrounds.
Our strategy to strengthen and support sectors such as higher education, research, professional services, and technological innovation, is working. We now have more jobs in the private sector, we continue to have Australia’s lowest unemployment rate and more than 10,000 new jobs were created in the ACT last year.
Our population is growing because people are finding secure, well paid jobs here, they can move their family here and they can settle here.
This government is ensuring local companies who do the right thing by their employees are not disadvantaged in bidding for government work. That is why this year we will introduce a secure local jobs package including a code that requires high ethical and labour standards.
We are now a city of 410,000 people and we’re planning now for our population to reach 500,000 over the next decade. We are taking the important decisions now to make our city even stronger, more liveable, and more enjoyable.
We are building the infrastructure and expanding the services needed to make a growing Canberra even better.
We are rising to the challenges created by Canberra’s growth in our second century, while protecting the fundamental elements that people love about this city: our lifestyle, our natural environment, our inclusiveness and our progressive approach to social issues.
Canberrans are among Australia’s most active, we have more patent applications per capita than any other city and our residents volunteer our time more than those in any other city in Australia.
We are proud of Canberra and are working hard to make it better for every Canberran.
Through 2018, the ACT Government will continue to promote Canberra to the world. We will work to secure more international flights and better, cheaper connections to other Australian cities.
With Lonely Planet recognising that Canberra is in the top three cities to visit in the world, now is the time for us to harness the opportunities from this global exposure.
Our booming economy
The ACT Government is actively repositioning Canberra as an emerging global city, while also implementing nation-leading progressive policies.
Our economy is performing strongly. Last year, employment in the ACT grew by 4.6 per cent, significantly exceeding the 10-year average rate of 1.4 per cent. There are more Canberrans working than ever before; 10,000 new jobs were created last year – the strongest year of jobs creation in a decade.
These jobs are in sectors that fit our strengths as a city – in education and training, heath care, the energy sector and IT – and the majority are full-time positions.
Not so long ago, young people left Canberra as soon as they could to further their careers. Those times have gone.
From Macgregor to Manuka and Casey to Calwell, young people are forging their own careers, and becoming leaders in their fields, right here in Canberra.
Whether it’s in creative industries, in hospitality, in research and development or within our thriving care sectors, they are staying here because Canberra has the opportunities and lifestyle they desire. This youthful positivity is spreading across our city.
We have achieved this while balancing the territory budget, investing in transport and social services, and implementing a progressive tax reform agenda to ensure a fairer distribution of the tax contribution.
We have halved the deficit forecast in the 2017 Budget, and are forecasting strengthening surpluses from 2018-19 onwards.
This is a result we have been steadily working towards since 2014 – returning the Budget to balance while making major new investments in our city.
Because Canberra is a growing city, we are investing in more and better services and infrastructure to ensure our city keeps getting better for everyone who lives here. Maintenance of our core and social infrastructure is incredibly important – from our roads, to our parks and playgrounds.
Canberrans will see further improvements in our municipal services throughout the year – from a rollout of green bins to help with our own yards, to more frequent mowing of parks and cleaning of public spaces.
Through the Budget Update, we are delivering more elective surgeries, more paramedics and ambulances, more investment in our courts and community safety, and better local schools.
Importantly, this year we are also continuing to deliver on our election commitments, including providing every student in our public high schools with a high-quality device to enhance their learning, no matter the financial circumstances of their family.
Equality of educational opportunity is a core Labor value, and I congratulate Deputy Chief Minister Berry for making this important reform a reality for thousands of students this year. Already we are seeing other States follow our lead.
Reforms such as this build on our investments through the 2017-18 Budget to deliver on our election commitments for a better Canberra.
Leading the Nation
This Government will always lead the fight for a fairer and more equitable Australia.
From standing up for equitable and life-changing services through the NDIS to leading the way on marriage equality, the ACT has a track record of promoting inclusion and fairness nationally, to achieve changes that matter here at home.
Madam Speaker, as I am both the chair of the Council for the Australian Federation and the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors in 2018, this year offers an unparalleled opportunity to strengthen our city’s voice on issues of national importance, and to draw on Canberra’s socially progressive values to deliver meaningful change across the country.
During 2018, I will use these roles to work with supportive Federal MPs and Senators, along with the Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner, to advocate for the repeal of the Andrews Bill that deprives Australia’s territories our democratic right to make decisions about end of life choices.
Canberra is a mature, educated and engaged community, we are ready and capable of having a mature discussion about voluntary assisted dying in this jurisdiction. I welcome the commencement of work by the Assembly Select Committee on this fundamental issue.
No matter your personal views – and I acknowledge that people will have very different views – everyone should surely support the right of the territories to make our own laws. I look forward to support from across the ACT Legislative Assembly in standing up for the democratic rights of the people we represent.
In 2018 the Government, and each of its Members, will continue to deliver for Canberrans on issues that matter to them.
We will further increase the use of online engagement to engage more Canberrans.
We will continue to cut stamp duty and increase housing supply to put home ownership within the reach of young Canberrans and those on low-and-middle incomes.
First and foremost, housing is about shelter and security. So we will continue our efforts both locally and through pursuing national reforms to see more Canberrans owning their own homes and maintaining stable rental tenancies, and ensuring those experiencing the risk of homelessness are supported into secure accommodation.
This is demonstrated by our work to design and commence construction of Common Ground 2 in the Dickson precinct over the coming 18 months.
We will show how better designed and smarter cities can increase productivity, social inclusion and grow more good jobs.
We will improve transport links with other Australian cities, expand on our expertise in renewable energy, and continue our investment in the digital innovation Canberrans so enthusiastically embrace.
2018 autumn legislation program
To ensure Canberra continues to be a modern and confident city, the Labor Government will bring forward important pieces of legislation this year.
Our legislative priorities impact Canberra’s families, how they move around our city, safeguarding our most vulnerable and improving the efficiency of government.
During this sitting period, we’re protecting Canberra’s most vulnerable by tightening firearms legislation, improving the efficiency of the court system, and providing new mechanisms to support urban renewal and adaptive re-use of ageing buildings.
Attorney-General Ramsay will introduce legislation to establish a Drug and Alcohol Court, as well as addressing the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
We will continue to protect children and young people through amendments to further implement A Step Up for Our Kids Strategy, while we will establish a legislative mechanism for reviews into family violence deaths.
Meanwhile, as we reform Canberra’s public transport sector, the Government will introduce a framework for the operation of light rail, including ticketing and enforcement powers.
Before the end of the year, we also intend to legislate reforms to Canberra’s Compulsory Third Party insurance scheme that are recommendations of this city’s first citizens’ jury.
The insights we gain in working with the citizens’ jury will also inform our efforts through this year and beyond to engage more directly with the Canberra community.
The Government’s work over the next 12 months is focused on what Canberrans value most and what they want from their city.
Great cities work when they deliver essential services, are sustainable and are open to new ideas.
We are a positive, progressive city that is making things happen, and I’m pleased more and more people are recognising what’s on offer here.
My Government is delivering on our commitments, to build a better Canberra. During 2018, we will deliver today and build for tomorrow.