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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 16 September 2021) . . Page.. 2603 ..


credits for payroll tax, utilities and other charges, yet the scheme will not start until October and the website states that detailed guidelines will be available in the coming weeks, which is no help to businesses on the brink. Given the scheme is meant to provide support for business hardship, why will it not kick off until October, two months after lockdown began?

MR BARR: Madam Speaker, I will take this one. The scheme is designed to deal with quarterly business activity and to compare one quarter pre-pandemic or pre-outbreak with the following quarter and to provide a further set of assistance to business on top of what has already been provided. So this will provide a further top-up later in the round of business supports.

Earlier in the round of business supports there was a targeted program—this is pre-outbreak—for tourism and accommodation providers, for example, who were experiencing a lack of demand because of the lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne particularly. So waves of business support come through different programs and in different tranches. In this instance, these supports are credits against liabilities that are not immediately due. Most of those are quarterly, some are monthly liabilities to the ACT government. It will depend, of course, on the tax line.

MS CASTLEY: Chief Minister, why did it take until the fourth week of lockdown for businesses to start receiving funds as part of the ACT COVID-19 business support grants?

MR BARR: Funds were made available within the first week of the applications opening. We were able to negotiate our joint package with the commonwealth within two weeks. The equivalent New South Wales government scheme took three to four weeks from when they had their first cases before it was even opened! The New South Wales scheme still has a backlog in paying businesses out. The problem, ultimately, is that state-administered schemes are the least efficient way to deliver support directly to business. This is the point that the New South Wales Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet made repeatedly and publicly, including write an op-ed in the Daily Telegraph pointing this out.

We are not the only jurisdiction that has experienced frustration in this delivery model. I agree that it is not optimal. It would be much easier if it was done through the business activity statement system and through the Australian Tax Office, like JobKeeper was. It would have been much, much better. Money would have flowed much earlier. But, unfortunately, the commonwealth preferred this method. We then had to negotiate with them the eligibility criteria and the quantum of funding. That has changed multiple times for different states and territories.

You might recall Victoria went into this first and then New South Wales was given more than Victoria, promoting or further promulgating the view that the Prime Minister is the Prime Minister for New South Wales. So then Victoria’s scheme had to be adjusted again. We had a different scheme for South Australia. We have too much inconsistency, and that is because we do not have a national scheme. But it is what it is, and we are doing our best to process thousands of payments as quickly as possible. (Time expired.)


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