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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 16 September 2021) . . Page.. 2629 ..

In my experience, small business owners overwhelmingly go to great lengths to support and care for their employees, as opposed to larger organisations who get away with charging abysmal wages through a range of legal loopholes. It is our small businesses who hire locally, pay fairly and stand in solidarity with their workers. Small businesses are so special because they exemplify grassroots democracy. They are our local book shops, cafes and florists. They are our ideas and projects that bring our communities to life.

Let me begin by asking all Canberrans to reflect critically on their own purchasing power and to continue to support small Canberra businesses during this time not big corporations, if it can be avoided. Check in on your local and see if they offer click and collect, buy something to be home delivered to a loved one. Pop out for a coffee in a COVID-safe way on your daily walk, Pick up some reusable fabric masks from someone who sews them in their home. All of these acts add up and are so important to ensuring local businesses stay afloat.

Small business owners are not one-dimensional; they are also health care consumers, public transport commuters, parents who send their children to public schools and people who volunteer in their local communities. As a small-businessperson prior to my election, I would hold any politician in contempt who tried to treat me as a monolith. Sometimes the conversation around small business becomes so reductive that we are unable to see the whole humanity of business owners and small business workers. We forget to see them as members of our community who also deserve their health to be protected above all else.

Small business owners are not a political tool; they are members of our community who deserve us to consider their needs in the broad and complex context of this crisis. In my experience, the stress of running a small business can be all consuming. It takes people away from their families and friends, and it can feel like you are living under a cloud of stress and worry. I know personally that business owners need to balance books on a knife edge and become accountants, maintenance workers, people managers, social workers, innovators—the list goes on.

During this current COVID outbreak, whilst businesses are trying to stay afloat and are rapidly adapting their services to survive, I appreciate just how difficult it is for them to also work out how best to engage with their local government and ask for what they need. Instead they look to the ACT government to come forward and support them, which is what we are trying to do. There is no doubt in my mind that being a business owner in this situation is extremely difficult, which is why I am strongly supportive of the huge effort of the minister and the broader government to support businesses at this time.

The government understands how integral it is for business to continue to operate so that Canberrans can keep working, keep earning an income and keep having a sense of purpose and motivation. The last thing I want to see is people losing their jobs and a sense of purpose at the same time. That would be a recipe for disaster.

The government has been opening themselves up to meeting with small businesses as much as possible throughout the pandemic, and even more so during the current

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