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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 11 November 2021) . . Page.. 3383 ..

Governor-General’s centenary family picnic day, our bus ride was free. The government supports sporting events at Bruce Stadium and at Manuka Oval with free public transport, and free buses are available on Anzac Day and Australia Day. Currently, public transport is free in Canberra for anyone travelling to a vaccination clinic. In this context, a period of free travel at night and on weekends is the support we want to offer to Canberrans, and it will give a boost to our night-time economy.

As a member for Ginninderra, I am keen to see lockdown-impacted businesses in the Belconnen town centre and across the rest of my electorate prosper. I want to see thriving cafes, restaurants, cinemas, performing arts centres, clubs and takeaways. I hope to see entrepreneurs with dreams succeed as they launch new endeavours. Business owners and employees have paid a terrible price during this pandemic, as have musicians, actors and other artists. The entire community has been impacted. Those at the core of this city’s night-time economy have shouldered a very large share of this burden. This motion calls on the ACT government to honour their sacrifice in a small way. Let us do everything we can for a few months to make it easier and more attractive for Canberrans to have a night out and support local businesses. I commend this motion to the Assembly.

MS CASTLEY (Yerrabi) (4.43): Let me apologise to the business community for the typographical error—the business community does an amazing job—and I thank Minister Steel and Minister Cheyne for pointing it out. It was very helpful and not quite the gotcha moment that they were hoping for.

What a shame. If the Labor-Greens government truly supported small business, they would have supported this motion. Let’s face it, this is not an amendment; it is a total rewrite. Not enough has been done for COVID recovery. It is no longer about lockdown. As Minister Steel said, yes, there were some measures, but this is about COVID recovery. There was a support grant, but for many businesses this money went to bills, taxes and expenses to enable them to stay afloat long enough so that they could open their doors when lockdown ended. Some business owners have not paid themselves for nine weeks or longer. I spoke to a cafe that has not broken even since opening. Businesses have dipped into their reserves, and in many cases they are losing it all, if they have not already.

As my three colleagues have mentioned, the amendment calls on the ACT government to continue working with business to identify ways to encourage more Canberrans into town centres. There was a practical solution in my motion to do exactly that. Minister Steel, it is no longer about lockdown. Seriously, I wonder if sometimes the Labor-Greens government disagrees with me for fun because it has the power to say no. This is not a big ask. I am not being political on this one. Do the ministers realise just how desperate things are for some of our businesses? All I am asking for is that the government make it easy for as many Canberrans as possible to hit the town and spend their money in Canberra over the summer period.

As Ms Lawder said, we know that there is a mass exodus over Christmas, and there will be, because there has been no travel. So we want to make it easy for the people that remain in town to stay in Canberra and spend money here. These businesses are scrambling to get back to normal and will struggle through a quiet Christmas period.

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