Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 11 November 2021) . . Page.. 3296 ..
MRS JONES (Murrumbidgee) (10.03): Ajit and Jyotsna run their own little supermarket serving the southern suburbs of Molonglo Valley. It might be a small supermarket but it has a big impact because it is the only shop that many people in that area can walk to. For mums who are at home without a car and for people who do not own a car, which the government encourages so much, this supermarket is all that they have had for some time. These heroes of commerce have provided that service. However, this petition notes that recently, prior to the lockdown, it took police more than eight hours to attend a crime scene when the premises were attacked during the day while staff were present.
This outcome is not good enough for these people trying to run their little supermarket and for the staff who serve in there all day, who can find themselves quite afraid at times, given the history of break-ins at this shop. The break-ins do not always occur at night time; sometimes they occur while the staff are there during the day. The petitioners therefore ask that the government make a police presence in the vicinity of the shops regular and visible and that the ACT government make sure that there are sufficient police for a much faster response time than the eight hours it took.
Ajit put his experiences in running this community supermarket into these words: “We had a perception that Canberra was a safer place than other states in Australia when we moved from Melbourne to Canberra years ago. It leaves mental scars and fear when we get broken into. We always feel under pressure and left alone when we see some unsocial elements near the store, as there is no police presence. Apart from being broken into, we have had several instances where unsocial people entered the store and threatened us that they would destroy the shop.”
People working in retail take home little enough as it is. I know well, having been a union rep for those workers at an earlier stage in my life. They should not have to live with the additional trauma of break-ins and a very slow police response. Is this how we want our business owners to live? Is this how someone brave enough to open the only little supermarket supplying bread and milk and sweets and supplies to the community in that area is to feel?
I have been to this supermarket several times since they have been broken into. It is another in the long list of failings of this government in relation to the suburb of Coombs and Wright. There is a lack of community facilities. There was the complete bungle of forcing the developer to build a 1,000 square metre supermarket rather than a 1,500 square metre supermarket. That was not allowed, but it is now allowed everywhere else in Canberra for IGA-type stores.
The housing units have in some cases been very poorly designed, with too many tenants together, creating something of a ghetto. And they are trying to build on the last piece of natural environment in the suburb, the nature reserve, on the Coombs Peninsula. The least that the government can do is ensure that there is sufficient police protection and assistance for this little business in an otherwise entirely empty shopping centre that is trying to serve the community with the basic supplies that they need.