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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 April 2021) . . Page.. 900 ..

The chamber also referred to the Big Battery project and Woden light rail. It wants to see policies to ensure that money is spent with local businesses. It said:

We would be missing an important opportunity if the government funds out-of-town businesses to do this work but does not mandate any local procurement component.

It is a really sad reflection of this government’s low regard for small business that the Canberra Business Chamber has to plead with the Labor-Greens government to keep jobs in the territory.

Another example of this government’s poor understanding of small business is the failed Choose CBR scheme, which was a complete flop. Just as importantly, particularly as far as small business is concerned, it was a huge waste of money. The scheme was rushed, messy and complicated. No wonder businesses and consumers did not touch it. The fact that almost $125,000 was spent on admin costs shows how out of touch the government is. It is a heck of a lot of money. What were the admin costs involved?

As you would expect, Ms Cheyne defended the trial. Now we await the full monty. Given that the government set aside $2 million for this project, let us hope that mark 2 is better, meaning that it actually encourages consumers to go through the doors of local businesses and shops and see the dollars spent. As winter approaches and the nights get cold, you only have to consider our restaurant and hospitality sector to understand how business will start drying up, given that alfresco dining is no longer an option.

I want to touch on a topic that at first seems a long way removed from small business. I want to mention toilets. While the government talks about supporting business, it seems to miss the fundamentals. Minister Steel has finally announced a long-awaited upgrade to the Gwydir Square shops in Kaleen: $1.5 million is on the table for this job. It is great news. While the government says the project is about improving the shops to “shop locally, providing improved financial outcomes for businesses”, the government is refusing to provide public toilets as part of the upgrade. On the website, under the heading “What we are not looking at”, it states:

This project does not include construction of new public toilets.

There will be community consultation about the shops upgrade but not about toilets. If my job as shadow business minister is to campaign for public toilets at a local shopping centre to get more customers through the door, I will do it. I will do it because I know business. I have run small businesses and understand the hard and constant work involved, the stress, the worry, the constant challenges and the many factors that make or break you. (Second speaking period taken.) What small businesses need is a government that backs them, not a government that is so attached to its army of public servants that it gets buried in the bureaucratic discovery phase and has to set up a taskforce to build a bridge to a small business world that it has no idea about. Thank goodness the Canberra Liberals are gunning for small business and get the importance of public toilets.

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