My first year as Chief Minister
This week marks my one year anniversary as Chief Minister of the ACT.
I have been particularly focussed on delivering health and education services in the Territory. This has proved especially challenging in the face of massive cuts in federal government funding to these areas.
I made the decision in the 2015– 16 ACT Budget to invest more than any previous ACT government on renewing our hospitals, schools, roads and local services.
I’ve also worked hard to improve transport services across the Territory which has seen the formation of Transport Canberra and the introduction of ridesharing services.
Throughout the year I have worked hard to protect Canberra jobs, encourage economic activity and make it easier to do business.
The health of Canberrans is one of my top priorities and that is why the 2015-16 ACT Budget delivered a record spend in Health of $1.5 billion, nearly one-third of the total ACT budget.
We are building a new sub-acute hospital for Canberra, the ACT’s third public hospital.
Situated on the University of Canberra (UC) campus, the facility will offer rehabilitation and mental health care services. When complete, the hospital will provide capacity for 140 overnight beds, 75 day spaces for admitted patients as well as additional outpatient services.
The UC Public hospital is part of our $909 million Health Infrastructure Program, with construction due to commence early next year.
New bulk-billing GP clinics are springing up around Canberra and compliment our Community Health Centres.
It is so important that the high level of care that our Canberra hospitals provide is supported by quality community health services so Canberrans can access the right care when they need it.
Canberra is continuing its path to becoming the knowledge capital of Australia, with our tertiary education institutions playing an important part in our city's growth.
To help support the University of Canberra become a sustainable organisation that can realise its growth potential, the ACT Government passed planning reforms this year which govern development on the campus.
The updated planning legislation will make the University more competitive by giving it the same commercial opportunities as other universities, including the Australian National University.
The 2015-16 ACT Budget provides a record investment in our nation leading education system, the ACT’s biggest ever spend in education delivering over $1.1 billion this financial year.
This year the government announced a new $10.7 million CIT campus to be located in the heart of Tuggeranong.
CIT Tuggeranong will deliver skills training in health, business, legal, IT, creative industries and adult community education programs. Not only will this allow greater access to skills training for more Canberrans, the campus will help renew the Tuggeranong town centre and support local businesses.
We have also commited $160 million for modern classrooms and school facilities right across Canberra including a new Primary to Year 6 school in North Gungahlin and a Preschool to Year 6 school in the Molonglo Valley, areas of high population growth in the territory.
The ACT Government passed ground breaking legislation in 2015 that allowed the ACT to become the first Australian jurisdiction to regulate ridesharing services.
Cities around the world have struggled with the introduction of distributive services like Uber - yet here in the ACT we were determined to ensure services were made available to Canberrans in a safe and legal manner.
Next year, work will start on Canberra's light rail and will mark the start of the next stage of our public transport network. We are forging ahead with our vision of an integrated public transport system that will merge ACTION and Capital Metro into a single agency – Transport Canberra – from July 2016.
Transport Canberra will be responsible for integrating buses with the new light rail, ensuring a single ticketing system, a central contact for information and coordinated timetabling.
We are also investing in new roads and road infrastructure, in addition to our ongoing road reasealing and maintenance program.
We are investing $24.6 million for the duplication of Ashley Drive which will improve Tuggeranong’s road network, improving the major thoroughfare from South Tuggeranong to Woden and the City.
We also have major road upgrades to cater for the growing Gungahlin region with the duplication of Gundaroo Drive and Horse Park Drive planned.
Jobs and business
It’s clear that the ACT can no longer rely on the Federal Government for economic activity and employment growth in Canberra.
Over the past few years, the Federal Government has ripped thousands of jobs out of the city. Despite this, I have been impressed with the resilience of our economy to absorb these cuts and avoid a recession similar to the experience in 1996 when a Federal Liberal Government last cut the APS.
The resilience of our economy has been in no part due to the ACT Government’s decision to continue investing in our city to create jobs.
Our strong infrastructure program has seen projects like the Majura parkway and the Coombs Primary School provide hundreds of jobs, and the future pipeline of major government projects including the Light Rail network and the new University of Canberra Public Hospital will ensure economy activity over the coming years.
The Government is also working to help business thrive in the ACT – promoting job opportunities and growth outside of the APS.
This year, my Government launched Access Canberra – the one stop shop for business and individuals looking to engage with Government. We want to streamline and simplify the process of doing business in the ACT – and one of the roles of Access Canberra is to speak to local business and identify regulatory burdens that could be removed by government.
Another important initiative the Government launched this year was our latest Business Development Strategy – which aims to support growth in our private enterprises and develop new and exciting industries.
The government is also working to ensure our town centres and CBD precinct remain vibrant and active hubs of economic activity.
The loss of entire departments from town centres is having a devastating impact on small local businesses such as cafes and retail businesses that rely on weekday foot traffic.
Since becoming Chief Minister, I have made a number of decisions that support our town centres right across the city – including the relocation of a CIT facility in the Tuggeranong town centre, the relocation of 1,110 ACT Government staff to Woden and the opening of Gungahlin’s first ACT Government office block.
We have also redeveloped the Belconnen town centre with the new bus interchange and community health centre.
Our ongoing efforts to increase activity in the CBD – through urban renewal and attracting more street activities and events, will be one of the government’s priorities in 2016.
The sale of Section 52 right next to the Civic Centre is the very start of a series of urban renewal projects in the city.
When I became Chief Minister, I made a commitment to get out from the Treasurer’s desk and engage with Canberrans on the issues facing our city.
What I’ve heard is that we are all proud of Canberra and we all want it to look it’s best.
That’s why, in my first Budget as Chief Minister, I introduced a $8 million package for increased mowing, weeding and cleaning of our lakes.
This package ensured the entire city would receive and extra mow per year, and that our lakes are healthier for Canberrans to enjoy.