Chief Minister Andrew Barr said businesses needed to do the heavy lifting to attract new skilled workers to the territory, otherwise they would be lured to better employers in Melbourne and Sydney.
In an estimates hearing on Wednesday, Mr Barr, in his capacity as the ACT Treasurer, said the government would continue to invest in training opportunities but businesses had a larger role to play in training.
"It's not just the responsibility of government to invest in training, and in fact it's businesses who stand to benefit the most from having a skilled and productive workforce," he said.
"It's businesses that need to step up at this point to both attract new workers by offering competitive wages, salaries and conditions and its businesses that need to retain their existing workforce.
"If you have skills in a particular area that is not an area that the government employs in, then your choice will be around which employer you want to work for.
"And if there are better employees in Sydney or Melbourne who pay more and who look after their staff and who value them better than the equivalent employers in Canberra, the Canberra employers will miss out."
Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee also queried Mr Barr over the government's infrastructure spend. Ms Lee has previously slammed the government over its $5 billion infrastructure budget announcement, saying another year was added to the forward estimates to make the dollar figure look good.
Last year, the government allocated $4.3 billion to infrastructure in the four years to 2023-24. In the 2021-22 budget the four-year spend is $4.48 billion.
A report on the ACT's budget from the Centre for International Economics noted this, saying the budget funding was significant however the total expenditure for 2021-22 was down on last year's budget. It said this was driven by a reduction in capital provisions.
"Compared to the 2020-21 budget, total infrastructure and capital investment expenditure is down by $153 million for 2021-22 and $12 million for 2022-23, but is higher in 2023-24 by $204 million," the report said.
"Overall, the 2021-22 budget provides a minor boost to investment over the comparable forecast period in last year's budget.
"The fall in total investment for 2021-22 is driven by the reduction in capital provisions. In terms of funding, there is a relocation of investment from Transport ACT and City Services Directorate to Major Projects Canberra."
Ms Lee put this to Mr Barr in the estimates hearing on Wednesday, and he pointed to the change in capital provisions as the reason for the decline in 2021-22.
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He also repeated his previous argument that the new net capital in the budget over the next four years is $455 million.
The $5 billion infrastructure spend was touted by the government as a way to "turbo charge" the territory's economy. However, Ms Lee said the CIE report confirmed this was spin.
"We outlined very clearly when the budget was handed down that despite the Chief Minister saying the infrastructure announcement would 'turbo charge' the economy when you drill down into the numbers it was nothing more than business as usual despite being in the middle of the most significant health and economic challenge we have ever faced," she said.
"Despite the rhetoric from the Chief Minister and the Labor-Greens government, these numbers clearly show this is not 'turbo charging the ACT economy which needs government action now coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown."
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