Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 12 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 November 2021) . . Page.. 3535 ..
wondering “how long we can continue to function this way”. I fear for the small builder and the father of three who employs 14 staff, who wrote to me, saying, “Should we just sit here with our heads in the sand and watch everyone go broke?” and the beauty therapist in my electorate of Yerrabi, who wrote, “Bills are piling up, small operators are floundering, and this is putting even further strain on my already fragile business.”
This government has a poor track record when it comes to supporting small business. In early August, I moved a notice of motion calling for a support package for the smashed hospitality sector, including emergency grants for businesses which had suffered a 30 per cent downturn. The government said no, while the Greens dismissed it as a cash splash. The government’s lack of support follows its failed ChooseCBR scheme, where the government wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on marketing costs, while fewer than 20 per cent of eligible businesses participated.
Small business owners fear for their economic future. The government’s job is to support them in dire straits and provide a rescue plan that offers certainty and hope. That is what they asked for: certainty. The Chief Minister and Treasurer described his budget as a “full-throttled attempt to revive”, to turbo-charge our economy. What a shame there was nothing in the budget to help small businesses hit the accelerator and rev their engines.
MS CLAY (Ginninderra) (4.46): In my capacity as the Greens spokesperson for the arts, I am really happy to speak to the budget, which has given quite a lot of support for the arts here, and is really carving out a new vision for Canberra. Art makes life better. It gives us a sense of voice, a sense of place, collective identity and culture. It gives our lives meaning. But as a writer I know first-hand that the arts are perpetually underfunded and over-relied upon. Especially during the pandemic, we have realised how important the arts sector is to our wellbeing.
The ACT Greens took a comprehensive arts package to the territory election, and we negotiated many of those commitments into the Labor-Greens Parliamentary and Governing Agreement. I am really pleased that quite a lot of those have been delivered. We have got additional funding in HOMEFRONT grants for local artists. A further $350,000 in HOMEFRONT grants was made available for Canberra’s creatives. The $700,000 in Amp It Up! was also really well received. I was pleased to learn from MusicACT, in a recent hearing, that that program had been co-designed with the industry. Half the funding went directly to local artists, and it was a new funding model. It has worked really well, and I hope we see a lot more of that.
Our recovery from COVID really needs to be strategic. We are funding the arts in Canberra, and we have really high participation rates from our audiences. Canberra loves our arts and culture, but we need to make sure that our artists stay central in our discussions, and we need to make sure that they are paid first and paid fairly. I am concerned that our arts sector has become increasingly overcapitalised. We need to fund our ageing infrastructure and we need to build more where this helps our long-term vision. But we cannot do it at the expense of the people who make the art. We need to support our artists and arts programs, not just the buildings that house them.