Page 98 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 8 February 2022

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invest in the industries which are the engines that drive employment growth in the ACT, and we will focus on rebuilding our tourism and our events sectors as the international border opens again to foreign tourists. We will do all of this in partnership with businesses as we continue to diversify our economy and work towards 250,000 jobs by 2025.

The opposition’s seizing on one month’s data to suit their own narrative—not to mention misrepresenting that data—does not paint the full picture. In fact, it seems that the opposition is set on talking the economy down through its insistence of picking at data rather than making any analytical effort. The full picture of our business community is one which is resilient and supportive, has consistently strong growth, and will benefit from the restoration of community confidence. The ACT government will continue to support this community while championing the opportunities of doing business in Canberra. I commend the amendment to the chamber.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (3.59): I welcome this opportunity to discuss the important matters raised in Ms Castley’s motion today. On behalf of the ACT Greens, the first thing I want to do is to acknowledge that the pandemic and the resulting lockdown and various other public health safety measures have caused hardship for many people and many businesses in the ACT. Small businesses, which are the subject of this particular motion, of course, have not been immune from this as for some businesses the combination of fewer customers, lockdown restrictions and staffing changes, as the dynamics of employment change and staff got sick or have had to isolate—that combination of things or varying versions of it—has been extremely trying. Clearly, some small businesses in the ACT are feeling the strain of the ongoing pandemic and a surge of cases that have come with the Omicron variant.

The Greens appreciate the ACT’s small businesses. They provide the goods and services that we rely on. They are driven by hardworking Canberrans. They provide employment, and for many Canberrans they represent their prosperity and their dreams. The poll data released yesterday by the Canberra Business Chamber, Property Council, Hotels Association and Canberra Region Tourism Leaders Forum showed that Canberra businesses are very concerned about their business situation at the moment. Some 85 per cent have been impacted by staff shortages. Most are more concerned about the impact of COVID on the wider economy than they were in December 2021, just a few months ago.

One important factor to think about when considering the economic challenges faced in the ACT and the difficulties faced by business is that the ACT has taken a strong and science-based response to COVID, in terms of implementing public health measures. This has included lockdown restrictions, which, of course, impact on economic activity. This is one of the wicked challenges presented by the virus: the need to balance issues such as public health and economic activity. We are compelled and obliged to take precautionary measures, such as lockdown and other restrictions, as an essential public health response. These measures have helped keep our ACT citizens safe from the worst impacts of the virus.

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