This week, the ACT government delivered a $4.9 billion jobs and economic recovery plan to support Canberra's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The economic shock we are experiencing is a once-in-a-century event. The last such shock was the Great Depression of the late 1920s.
Overseas migration has been put on hiatus. Tourism has almost halted. Hospitality is operating at around half capacity. Similarly, arts and creative industries are struggling. Our tertiary education sector - the crown jewel in the ACT's economy pre-COVID-19, is facing an uncertain future.
The government recognises this and believes that the best way to help through this period is to do more to keep people employed and boost the flow of money through the economy.
Having a job means more than paying the mortgage or rent, and it means more than being able to put food on the table. It provides meaning, structure, connection and opportunity in people's lives.
It also means that they can contribute to our community, and keep other people employed too.
I know the biggest part of my job now is to protect Canberra jobs.
When the governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Philip Lowe, addressed leaders at the national cabinet last week, his message was clear - all levels of government need to invest now to create jobs, stimulate aggregate demand in our economy and avoid decades of economic struggle.
Governor Lowe urged all Australian governments to take advantage of all-time record low interest rates and help people during this once-in-a-century public health and economic crisis, keeping them in jobs and boosting public investment at a time when private investment is very weak.
So far, we have avoided some of the terrible repercussions we have seen around the world.
The economic advice from the Reserve Bank governor was for the state and territories to invest at least another $40 billion over the next two years in jobs and infrastructure to assist the national economic recovery. For the ACT, that would amount to around $800 million of additional infrastructure and job-creating investment, on top of our usual infrastructure and economic development programs.
We want Canberra to remain as one of the world's most liveable cities, a place of low unemployment, secure jobs, and environmental and social leadership, so we need to be bold. Investment in the next stage of our economic and community recovery needs to go further, and it needs to be bigger.
Our $4.9 billion Jobs and Economic Recovery Plan features an ambitious infrastructure investment program, with projects big and small designed to protect and create jobs, now and into the future.
We will build the infrastructure a growing city needs, including an expanded Canberra Hospital, new, expanded and refurbished schools, even more investment in building new public housing and a state-of-the-art CIT facility in Woden.
The ACT government will also continue to provide fee relief for Canberra households and local businesses.
There will be more investment in vital community support programs, additional mental health services, support for young people and the aged, and food relief while our city continues to feel the economic and social impacts of the pandemic.
These investments matter, because they will create and support good local jobs now and in the future.
The government has set an ambitious target for the territory of having over 250,000 people in work by 2025.
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Before the pandemic and associated global economic crisis, we reached a record level of 238,300 Canberrans employed. In April and May 2020, the impact of the pandemic meant jobs fell by 10,500. By July 2020 the recovery was under way, with total employment recovering to 233,400.
While the ACT economy has shown resilience and performed better than most other jurisdictions across Australia, almost all industries in the ACT have been negatively hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our plan will keep as many Canberrans employed as possible in the industries most affected by the pandemic, such as tourism and hospitality, retail and arts and creative industries.
We also intend on supporting employment growth in a diverse range of areas such as tertiary education, renewable energy, innovation, cyber security and defence industries.
The future is uncertain, but it's important that we outline this clear plan demonstrating how Canberra can recover from what we have lived through in 2020.
I thank Canberrans for their strength and community spirit through these exceptionally difficult times.
By working together and adapting the way we work and live, we have reduced the risk of the coronavirus spreading in our community. So far, we have avoided some of the terrible repercussions we have seen around the world.
Our public health response has, and always will, take precedence in how the ACT government continues to support the community. But right now, we need to display resilience and agility in how the government rebuilds our economy to restore growth and protect local jobs.
- Andrew Barr is the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory.