ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has used his State of the Territory address this afternoon to announce a funding commitment of $200,000 for the Canberra Business Council to help boost Canberra’s exports.
While the ACT was mostly a service economy, the Chief Minister said our top shelf wines (the ACT pioneered shiraz viognier blends) and high-tech goods were proving popular in south-east Asia.
The Chief Minister used an array of statistics to play up the strengths of the ACT economy during the annual address to the Canberra Business Chamber at Hotel Realm today.
“Jobs growth is double the national average and unemployment among the lowest in the country,” Mr Barr said.
“The ACT’s service exports grew by 13 percent in 2016 and Gross State Product grew by 3.4 percent.
“We remain focused on jobs that will deliver more growth and wages for Canberrans.”
Mr Barr delivered his sales pitch to the titans of Canberra business as they enjoyed a formal lunch with wine.
“I’ve always believed our city’s reputation as a sleepy country town never did justice to this place,” he said.
“I’m pleased more and more people are recognising what’s on offer in our cool little capital.”
His address made a special mention of the ACT’s top universities — the ANU and UC — for their role in giving Canberra its “comparative advantage” in education. The ANU was the largest employer in the territory and responsible for much of the interstate and international migration to Canberra, he said.
“Education is our territory’s top export,” Mr Barr said.
“By 2020 I want Canberra to have further developed its strengths as a centre for high-quality research institutions.”
On the possible departure of the Brumbies from Super Rugby and the state of Canberra Stadium, Mr Barr said that Manuka Oval and the Canberra Stadium were often confused. While Manuka Oval was owned by the ACT government, the Canberra Stadium was not.
“Up until recently we had rented [Canberra Stadium] for the princely sum of $1 a year,” the Chief Minister said.
But as the Sports Commission, the arm of the Federal Government that owns the Canberra Stadium, was a bit “cash strapped” they had decided to dramatically increase the annual rental to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“My view is that if we are to improve the Canberra Stadium then the Federal Government needs to take greater responsibility for the asset that they own,” Mr Barr said.
He also said the ACT Government’s balance sheet had been hamstrung as a result of Mr Fluffy.
“Mr Fluffy houses have left us with $300 million in liabilities,” the Chief Minister said.
“As the result of taking on a $1 billion loan to deal with Mr Fluffy we have had to put on hold some of our larger infrastructure projects.”
In his closing notes, the Minister paid homage to Canberra’s powerful property developers, whose work he complimented and encouraged despite having banned their political donations during the 2016 election.
“Let’s build buildings that win awards,” Mr Barr said.
“That’s my call to the development industry.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to rejuvenate the gateway to the capital of the best country in the world.”