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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 1 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 35 ..

Small Business - Retail Space

MS HORODNY: My question is to the Minister for the Environment, Land and Planning, Mr Humphries. We have repeatedly heard from this Government that it is strongly committed to the development of small business in the ACT. That commitment has been spelt out in a number of much needed inquiries which have yet to be completed. In the meantime, one would hope that the commitment would also be reflected in Government action, so I was very disappointed in the announcement that all 10 hectares at the Conder shops had been sold to one of Australia's largest businesses, Woolworths supermarket. How does this action reflect the Government's commitment to small business?

MR HUMPHRIES: I thank Ms Horodny for the question because it is a quite good one. I think Ms Horodny is probably one of the only people in this town who have not been calling consistently for the Conder shops to be set up, and not only set up but set up as a matter of great urgency and priority. I am extremely proud that the Government has been able to get that issue on track within 12 months of coming into government and has now auctioned the site. At last the people of southern Tuggeranong will have shops of their own. An earlier attempt, I think by the former Government and by us, to elicit interest in the local centres in places like Bonython and Banks was unsuccessful. There were few or no expressions of interest in building shops in those places. It has left a very serious gap as far as retail facilities are concerned for people who live in southern Tuggeranong, and this Government has not hesitated to say that we should push ahead with a proposal to have shops there.

I am not sure whether Ms Horodny is saying that it should not have been those shops at that site, that it should not have been Woolworths who had that site, or that it should not have happened at this stage. I am not sure which of those things she is saying, but I will address all of them in turn in case it is one of those three things. As to that site: That was the site identified for a group centre in the Territory Plan for a number of years. It had to be there because nowhere else in that part of Tuggeranong was going to have a shopping centre under present conditions.

As to whether it should have gone to Woolworths, let me say this much: The Government, I think, did all it could, within the framework of the available gears and levers at our disposal, to ensure that it was not a large multinational that got that site. The original suggestion was for a supermarket of about three-and-a-half to four thousand square metres. The Government said, "No, the maximum size of the supermarket for at least the next three years will be two-and-a-half thousand square metres", conscious in making that decision that that would discourage the major retail chains like Woolworths and Coles and encourage local businesses, which tend to have smaller operations than the large chains. To my knowledge, a company like Woolworths has not built a two-and-a-half thousand square metre supermarket anywhere in Australia for a very long time; so it was a great surprise to me that not only did Woolworths actually want that site, but also it was prepared to pay a very large sum of money, namely $5m, for the site.

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