Today I gave my 2018 State of the Territory address to the Canberra Business Chamber. The full speech is below.
The state of the Territory
Canberrans are the best-educated, healthiest, longest-living, wealthiest and happiest Australians.
We all know this city is the best place in the world to live (and the OECD has confirmed it).
Lonely Planet has recognised Canberra as one of the world’s best places to visit and we are seeing record levels of domestic and international tourism.
The ACT’s economy is consistently among Australia’s strongest, in 2016-17 we grew by 4.6% - the fastest of all states and territories.
This growth is being driven by a diverse range of industries, infrastructure investment and is resulting in a jobs boom.
Over the past 12 months, employment in the ACT grew by 4.7 per cent, smashing the 10-year average rate of 1.5 per cent.
There are more Canberrans working than ever before; 10,400 new jobs were created over the past year and all of these jobs were full-time.
Most were created in areas where we have a competitive advantage: energy, professional services, technology, and heath care and social assistance.
We’re a highly skilled city, and our professional services sector has seized on our natural advantages. Significant growth across the sector has retained smart people in Canberra.
Our higher education sector now supports more than 16,000 jobs. With more investment from our universities, along with a potential major expansion of UNSW in Canberra, our city will continue to be Australia’s education capital.
Education is also now our leading export, worth $786 million to our economy. As economic diversification gathers pace, our service exports have grown significantly – 24.4 per cent in the past year.
Our population is growing quickly because people know they can find jobs here, they can set up a business here, and they can move their family here.
This growth is both an opportunity and a challenge.
It means we must invest in our city’s infrastructure now, to grow services for our growing city, accelerate housing supply and focus on urban renewal.
Great cities work by getting basic services right, and by making sure residents are well connected to their community, employment, education and lifestyle opportunities.
Great cities work by taking sound long-term policy decisions, and by following them through.
Better and more effective cities make Australia more successful and Canberra has an influential role to play in our national cities policy.
Long-term policies – such as a light rail network, renewable energy, taxation reform and diversifying our economy – all take political will.
Not everyone supports change. Many people are extremely comfortable with the status quo.
Change is difficult, but if we throw up our collective hands and hope for the best, we're going to get steamrollered by the technological, workforce and transport changes coming at us.
To compete and win, cities need to embrace and shape this change. That’s what we’re doing in Canberra.
What is the alternative? To just drift along and hope that the federal government will throw some more money at us? To never do anything for fear of upsetting someone?
This city will stagnate under timid managerialism. Young people will leave for better opportunities in bigger cities. New investment will dry up.
This is not the path we choose. We are not here to mind the shop.
As the only State or Territory with local government responsibilities, we can and should be more responsive in regulatory functions, and more innovative in our service delivery.
We can drive national reforms through our example and our ideas in policy planning, implementation, and innovation in technology and procurement.
Whether it’s through renewable energy targets, affordable housing targets or designated urban renewal, cities can lead by example.
Great cities are well connected cities.
Better connections between Australian cities – and within them – will increase productivity, social cohesion and job opportunities.
Our transport plan is about making it easier for people to travel to and around Canberra.
This year, our light rail and expanded rapid bus network will significantly improve public transport in Canberra.
The wider Canberra region is home to three quarters of a million people, so it’s important to look beyond our borders and work with our neighbours on improving connections for everyone.
We have worked constructively with the NSW Government to advance a major upgrade to the Canberra-Sydney rail link – to cut the travel time down from over four hours, to around three.
That sort of improvement would turn the line into a genuine commuter link to regional centres and a viable business travel option.
International flights – global connections
Beyond our nation, Canberra is now a globally-connected city.
From next month, we will have 14 international flights a week. 18 months ago, there were none.
That’s tens of thousands of new people coming into our city each year.
And it means Canberra companies can be in Asia within hours, and Europe and the USA within a day.
Daily international flights, connecting Canberra to Doha, Singapore and beyond, bring significant opportunities for our businesses, our institutions and our city as a whole.
The missing links are a connection to China, and re-establishing a direct service to New Zealand, onwards to the US West Coast. These are the medium term aviation priorities we are working on.
Domestically, opening up Canberra to low cost airlines is imperative to making Canberra a more affordable place to visit.
TigerAir’s Brisbane and Melbourne flights are doing well, and we’re looking to entice more low cost airlines to our city.
Our tourism sector is booming. More people are coming to Canberra from across Australia and around the world than ever before.
Tourism now employs 16,800 people in Canberra and one in seven new jobs in the ACT is in the tourism sector.
ACT tourism job numbers increased by 1,100 in the last financial year.
Recent figures from Tourism Research Australia show that tourism employment growth has even outpaced overall employment growth in the ACT.
Tourism now contributes $2.3 billion to the ACT’s economy and we’re well on our way to reaching our goal of a $2.5 billion tourism sector by 2020.
This success comes from long-term planning.
The Government has worked closely with industry to harness the opportunities from more domestic and international connections, to help diversify our economy.
We are committed to continuing this growth over the coming years, harnessing the opportunities global exposure brings.
Growing our services for a growing city
Delivering key services is essential for a growing city like Canberra.
As Canberra grows, our services need to expand.
We are accelerating that expansion now.
From health services like walk-in centres, building new schools in growth areas, to increasing housing choices for Canberrans at different stages of their lives, we are moving quickly.
We're employing more teachers, more nurses, more doctors, more police, more ambulance officers and more fire fighters.
These positions are the backbone of a growing city.
Funding and supporting growth in social and community services will assist the sector to meet demand.
For Canberra to be again crowned the world’s most liveable city in 2030, the work starts now.
A renewed city
Many of Canberra’s centres built in the 30-year post-war period are starting to feel tired; they need their spark back.
It can be done.
Look at the revitalised precincts like Braddon and NewActon.
This kind of renewal takes time, patience and ongoing focus. It also takes faith in a vision of Canberra as a confident, fun and engaging city.
A great city needs a great city centre, with activity and people.
That’s why we have established the City Renewal Authority and why we want our CBD and surrounds to be home to many more Canberrans.
Designing a great city
Great cities pay attention to design and understand to how people really use spaces and services.
Making Canberra easy to get around, enhancing public parks and places, and building bold, interesting buildings is the focus of the Government over the next few years.
Our urban renewal should aspire to win awards. As a relatively young city, we have a largely blank canvas in our town centres for exciting designers and architects to leave their mark.
Canberra is progressive and inclusive; we recognise and influence technological and social change, and we embrace new ideas.
As Australia’s capital city, we have a unique position to lead the nation in long-term policy making and infrastructure planning.