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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Friday, 23 April 2021) . . Page.. 1150 ..

government would too. Another reason to introduce this notice of motion calling on the government to establish an ACT small business ministerial advisory council is that the Labor-Greens government can and must do a lot better when it comes to understanding and helping our small business sector. If we want the ACT to be the most small business-friendly place in the country—and that is the Canberra Liberals’ goal—then Canberra has to be a place where it is easy for small business to do business; where it is easy to start a business, to expand, to employ more staff, to move to a bigger site, and to know the government has your back and wants you to thrive, not just get by.

No doubt the government will throw acronyms our way to talk up its small business credentials. The latest on offer are the BRT, the Better Regulation Taskforce, and the CERAG, Canberra Economic Recovery Advisory Group. Minister Cheyne recently spruiked the BRT, which has just kicked off the discovery phase. We are told that this task force will identify burdensome rules, review legislation to simplify business engagement with government, encourage new business models and remove investment barriers. Who is on this task force? Who is heading it? How often will it meet, and has it already met? When will the discovery phase wind up, and what is there to be discovered? Most Canberrans would wonder why a government which has been in power for two decades needs a task force and a discovery phase to understand small business. It is interesting to note the words of the Business Chamber, which said that to be effective the task force “needs to deliver genuinely business friendly policies”. It said that business “would love to see real change”. An ACT small business ministerial advisory council would do just that—develop business-friendly policies. It would also ensure jobs are kept local and we would not need a body, an acronym, set up to make that happen.

The Canberra Economic Recovery Advisory Group is another new government acronym recently added to the bureaucratic lexicon. It will draw together economists, public policy experts, industry representatives, community sector groups and unions to help the ACT’s jobs and economic recovery plan. In August last year Chief Minister Barr declared that the government would run an expression of interest process for two small business owners to join CERAG. I am baffled to know how two small business owners could speak for Canberra’s 30,000-strong small business sector. Given that the focus of this group is jobs, I wonder why only two businesses were invited. The ACT small business ministerial advisory council would comprise small businesses, business owners and workers from key parts of the sector, such as retail, travel and hospitality, health and beauty, fitness and recreation, business services and technology, care and cleaning, and automotive repairs and maintenance.

Minimising government waste and getting better value for taxpayers’ money is another important reason the government should establish an ACT small business ministerial advisory council. You only need to look at the government’s recent failed ChooseCBR scheme to understand the need. Rushed, messy and complicated; no wonder business and consumers did not touch it. And to think, almost $125,000 was spent on administration costs. How different the trial could have been if Minister Cheyne and her directorate had worked with an ACT small business ministerial advisory council. ChooseCBR could have been a success.

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