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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 22 June 2021) . . Page.. 1879 ..

(d) any other relevant matter; and

(e) that the review will be publicly released by the last sitting day of 2021;

(4) further notes that as per the Auditor-General Act 1996 section 7 (2), the Auditor-General cannot be directed in relation to whether or not a particular audit is to be carried out but that he seeks input on the audit program, including from members of the Assembly; and

(5) further notes that the Minister for Business and Better Regulation has written to the Auditor-General advising that:

(a) an independent review of the ChooseCBR program will be undertaken;

(b) the results of this review will be shared with the Auditor-General for his consideration; and

(c) the Minister welcomes engagement with the Auditor-General regarding his work program, including, but not limited to, if the Auditor-General made a decision to undertake an audit into the ChooseCBR program.”

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (3.41): I thank Ms Castley for bringing this very important motion before the Assembly today. This motion does a good job of addressing the broad range of concerns that have been reported to me personally. I have heard from constituents who were excited to try a new business using the ChooseCBR scheme when it was first relaunched but, after receipt of the service and when they went to pay, they were charged full price because the scheme had been taken offline. Others who work during the day told me of plans to use a voucher on the weekend only to find that the scheme had ended before they could get to the shop. I have heard of people walking out of restaurants and other business when they realised they could not use the vouchers they had downloaded.

It has been a headache for nearly everyone. Business owners have let me know that attempting to participate in the scheme cost them more money in setup costs than they ever received from voucher-supported purchases. Others noted that they had brought extra perishable stock for the relaunch of the scheme which they then lost when the site was forced to be taken down. Other business owners tried to register for the scheme but could never get it to work, nor could they get the customer care they needed to make this happen.

Both business owners and residents have raised serious concerns with me directly that the scheme did not successfully target businesses most impacted by COVID-19. Instead, it created free-for-all that benefitted shops that were actually doing fine. There seems to be a consensus that the government did not get the balance right when it comes to eligibility or what vouchers could be used for.

In many cases, the scheme was so poorly thought through that it actually did more harm than good for many Canberrans. As one constituent said, it is essential that the government is fully transparent with the data generated from the scheme instead of hiding behind made-up privacy concerns. The economy will recover but it should not be at the expense and the heartache of Canberrans.

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