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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 30 June 2005 2005) . . Page.. 2557 ..

continuing. The decision by the territory government to cut funding ignores a number of important factors. This program targets a significant sector of business in the ACT—that is, the many thousands of small and micro businesses that the Treasurer keeps telling us are in a growth phase. It certainly sits rather uncomfortably with the concept that this is a business friendly environment. If you can give advice, one of the things that small business people often struggle with is an understanding of their compliance obligations. Often those skills are not evident in a small business and also the demands on their time often preclude them from researching the issues that they have to attend to. Whilst associations like the chamber of commerce can help in this regard, I think it is a regrettable decision to axe this program.

In the time I have left, I would like to mention a couple of other areas that we touched on in economic development, and I am sure my colleague the Leader of the Opposition will expand on some of these. I am troubled that, after much hype and fanfare and endless procrastination and negotiation, a replacement convention centre will not happen. There will simply be an upgrade for the National Convention Centre. Notwithstanding that the minister is no longer in the chamber—in fact, there is not a single minister here at all—I think it is important that when, hopefully, they read some of the discussions today they will acknowledge that the National Convention Centre is a facility that deserves better than a makeover. It ought to be expanded. It is not large enough to handle many exhibitions and conferences.

Canberra is being bypassed to the advantage of other locations such as Adelaide, which cannot be said to have any major climatic or tourist advantage over this area, the Gold Coast, which does have a number of natural advantages and has built a rather spectacular convention centre, and Cairns. These are all examples of communities that are aggressively pursuing the convention market that we are struggling to attract in any significant quantities. There have been the occasional celebrated conferences, such as the Woolworths conference, which has been back on a number of occasions. We ought to be looking at having it as a year round fully operational facility on a larger basis.

This also raises the question of the remaining $10 million, which seems to be going to be spread around the town on the Albert Hall and a few other bits and pieces. It did not seem to be subject to the same level of constraint that we have seen in other areas of government, and that was the subject of reference in the dissenting report. Also in the course of estimates I raised the issue of the impact on clubs of the looming tax regime. Notwithstanding my background as an opponent of that industry, in some respects, in relation to federal tax matters, I believe they present a rather strong case that they are being impacted adversely. I am not, and I put it on the record for the cynics, in any way suggesting that we rescind the smoking decision. I think that it is appropriate, and I supported it prior to the election. I am troubled, however, about the decision of the reforms in relation to note acceptors because, having worked on the federal ministerial advisory committee on gambling when it existed, I heard persuasive evidence from specialists in this area that that really is not the solution to dealing with people afflicted with problem gambling.

It is a bit like saying, “Let’s make smaller bottles of Scotch and then we will cure alcoholism.” It is a naïve, knee-jerk approach. It is hurting clubs in Canberra and I think we have to consider the impact. Certainly, in terms of the measures we adopted last week for the ongoing tax regime that will kick in in a couple of years, I felt that the Treasurer

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