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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 16 September 2021) . . Page.. 2627 ..

very hard hit local arts businesses with grants of up to $10,000. We are providing up to $75,000 to individual accommodation providers and up to $15,000 to small private tourism operators. This is additional money that has and will continue to be flowing to businesses. We have also extended the Canberra Business Advice and Support Service until March 2022, with businesses receiving up to four hours of free access to expert advice. If they have already used the four hours that was available up to 12 August they can access another four hours for free.

Turning now to our engagement with businesses, I have been engaging every single day with businesses. My focus has been on supporting businesses in a constructive way and in the way they have wanted to engage. There are many direct voices to government, including to me. That includes industry forums, and as soon as lockdown began a forum of business and industry leaders was stood up, together with key officials. It has met on average every second day of this lockdown, and I have been at every single one of these meetings. Ministers Gentleman and Vassarotti have been regular attendees at meetings of the construction industry and officials, which was meeting at least three times a week. Other engagement includes direct calls to business owners and business leaders at all hours and on all days. It includes engaging with representations made from people calling or writing to my office and text messages and social media messages, including late at night and early hours of the morning, all responded to personally by me.

This is a time when we need to band together to support our businesses, to be constructive and to direct them to where there is support. The opposition talk about wanting the best for business, but in some cases they have done the opposite of being constructive, and I will share one example that is incredibly distressing. A week ago the opposition leader posted on social media about the business support grants and that by her numbers, “at this rate, it will be July 2022 before all eligible businesses receive any support”. This is completely untrue. Why would anyone, let alone a community leader, wilfully provide that sort of false information? It is telling and frightening that the opposition leader wanted to political point-score at the expense of business owners’ mental health. For a party that support small business, they have been silent on JobKeeper. They essentially accused businesses of fraud during ChooseCBR, and now they are trying to scare them when they are at their most vulnerable. It is unconscionable conduct.

The announcement on Tuesday was difficult; no-one is denying that. But we provided certainty about the next four weeks. This has been difficult to digest for us all, not least for our business sector. It was not a decision taken lightly. There are many variables and unknowns, including what the future case rate will look like, and that has influenced the lockdown continuing. We cannot forget just how transmissible this virus is, how deadly it is, and we are still seeing transmission in our community among workers and vulnerable sectors of our community. We are vulnerable as an island in New South Wales, where we are all still in a vaccination race. Those variables and unknowns also mean we have more to work through. We do not want to open up again only to be sent back into lockdown. How devastating that would be.

The ACT’s COVID-19 pathway forward has three guiding principles: putting the health and wellbeing of our community the forefront of our decision-making; getting

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