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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 22 June 2021) . . Page.. 1874 ..

those 178 businesses a return of $150 for participating in ChooseCBR. I wonder whether they thought it was worth it.

What we have also learned today—for the first time—from the minister’s statement is that the Labor-Greens government bought the MyDarwin program, as well as, according to the minister, “the technical support provided by its vendor”. The questions are many. How much did the ACT government pay to buy the MyDarwin program? How much did the government pay for its technical support? What was the nature of the contract, particularly given that the system crashed here in Canberra and needed massive surgery?

Before concluding, I wish to raise a few other points from the minister’s speech defending the government program that has been riddled with problems, flaws and mistakes. No 1: on page 3, the minister tells us that ChooseCBR was about “stimulus occurring during the pandemic, at a time when businesses have been doing it tough”, yet the program was provided this month, a very long time after the pandemic initially hit businesses hard.

No 2: on page 9 the minister makes the claim that there was a very strong take-up from business, yet, as I have already said, less than 800 businesses made any money from the scheme, while 4,000 were actually eligible. It seems to be a stretch to describe this as a very strong outcome for business.

No 3: I cannot conclude without drawing the Assembly’s attention to the minister’s words on page 11, when she said that “this experience was deeply regrettable” and that “it undermined the confidence in the system”. I beg to differ. This is not about confidence in an IT system; it is about confidence in this government’s ability to get the basics right.

Canberrans are losing confidence in your government, the Labor-Greens government, to do its homework, avoid big blowouts and costly stuff-ups, spend Canberrans’ money wisely, ensure integrity in a program so that money goes where it is meant to go, and run a program smoothly that genuinely provides targeted and valuable support to our small businesses which need it most.

Audits are not uncommon in politics, and nor should they be. In politics, they matter because people have a right to know how their money is spent and whether they are getting value for money. The media reported that the government was conducting a “routine audit” of ChooseCBR after a two-day spending spree racked up almost $400,000. A government spokeswoman said that “the audit process has not indicated any misuse”. There are serious questions about the conduct of the scheme which can only be properly examined by a comprehensive and independent audit by the Auditor-General. Nothing less will suffice.

MR DAVIS (Brindabella) (3.29): I wish to speak to the motion brought forward by Ms Castley concerning the ChooseCBR economic stimulus program. The ACT Greens will be supporting the amendment to be moved by Minister Cheyne this afternoon, which reflects the commitment of this government to review and improve on any similar stimulus programs that may be pursued in the future.

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