Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 4 August 2021) . . Page.. 2318 ..
have provided an additional support package for aviation, reflecting its role in tourism and the fact that it is significantly impacted by decisions beyond its control.
I am optimistic that we can forge a sensible partnership between the territory and the commonwealth. I have spoken to Treasurer Frydenberg on a number of occasions in the last couple of weeks, indicating that we would provide the tourism support package that we have, but that I would need to talk to him further if the Sydney lockdown was prolonged. That was before the most recent extension, extending the lockdown out to the rest of this month.
MS LEE (Kurrajong—Leader of the Opposition) (3.51): I thank Ms Castley for bringing forward this motion and I commend it to the Assembly. I also thank other members for their contributions to this debate. It is an important one. I think no-one would like to be anywhere but Canberra during this time. In response to the pandemic, whether by good luck, good management or good compliance—it is probably a combination of all three—we have done very well. I take my hat off to not only the frontline health staff but also the small, local family businesses that have kept this city moving when everything else seemed to stop. These are the businesses that we are talking about.
Whilst there has always been talk that the federal government need to take responsibility, it is important to note that they have done the lion’s share of the heavy lifting, with $700 million in Jobkeeper payments to the ACT and over $500 million in cash flow boosts to ACT businesses, in addition to the income tax cuts and the record investment in infrastructure in the ACT. Let us not forget that, whilst of course this is a global pandemic and the lion’s share of the management and financial support has come from the federal government, we are talking about businesses that are run by Canberrans for Canberrans. These are the people who we, as a legislature, have responsibility for and have a loyalty to. It is also incumbent on the ACT government to step up when it is most required.
The figures that the Chief Minister has just mentioned in this debate are very interesting. They do actually highlight how well the ACT has done, but—and this is a big but—when you look at the figures from that perspective and in that big picture, on paper, it looks like we do not need any further assistance. It looks like we are doing really well—actually, in fact, better. We know that individually there are businesses that are doing better; we know there are businesses that have actually done better throughout this pandemic.
I want to make two points. The first is that, whilst there are businesses that have done better, there are so many others that have not. That is why Ms Castley’s motion specifically says, “support for the businesses that have seen a downturn of 30 per cent or greater”. This is not a call for the ACT government to hand out money like lollies. This is about supporting, in a targeted way, the businesses that are suffering and are continuing to suffer. There is no doubt that the ACT does rely on a lot of tourism, especially from the domestic market. With the lockdowns that we see in the big states, that is what it is missing out on.