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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 April 2021) . . Page.. 899 ..

If we want the ACT to be the most small business friendly place in the country, that has to change. Instead of the piecemeal package served up to small business in the government’s recent budget we are discussing today, with measures that I want to acknowledge do help, small business needs much more. Canberra needs to be a place where it is easy for small business to do business: where it is easy to start a business, to expand a business, to employ more staff, to move to a bigger site, to know that the government has your back and wants you to thrive and not just get by.

The whole government, not just the business minister or Chief Minister, needs to understand small business and support them. To do that, they need to meet and know them. That means getting out of the office, breaking free from the directorate to take a trip to Fyshwick or to hang out in Gungahlin; spending time in our many shopping areas across the ACT; knocking on doors, going in and having a chat, asking the simple question, “How is business?” and then listening.

I turn to a number of recent government initiatives supposed to help small business and illustrate how out of touch the government is with business needs. Minister Cheyne got to her feet in this chamber recently to spruik the government’s Better Regulation Taskforce, the BRT. The government announced the BRT in August last year as part of its jobs and recovery plan. The minister rose to declare that the taskforce had started work.

The taskforce was established to identify burdensome rules, review legislation, simplify business engagement with government, encourage new business models and remove investment barriers. The ACT government website says that the taskforce will make it easier to do business in the ACT. How great will that be? It aims to make business and government interactions better, faster and simpler. Bring it on. I think the key word there is “faster”. Since August, it seems that nothing has happened.

In question time, Minister Cheyne announced that the first phase had begun, the discovery phase. They want to engage with business to identify issues. Isn’t this what a minister for business does every day as part of the role? They need this taskforce to be set up for that. A range of questions come to mind. Who is on the taskforce? Who is heading it? How often does it meet? Has it met yet? How much is the taskforce costing Canberrans? When will the discovery phase end? When can we expect businesses’ concerns to be dealt with? Most of all, given that this government has been in power for 20 years, why does it need a taskforce and a discovery phase to understand small business? It speaks volumes about the government’s complete lack of interest in the role of the small business sector and genuine commitment to see it flourish.

It is interesting to note the words of the Canberra Business Chamber in welcoming the taskforce. It said:

… to be effective it needs to deliver genuinely business friendly policies. Business would love to see real change …

Let us watch this BRT and see what it delivers to help business.

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