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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 1348 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

we told you in the Estimates Committee - I then wrote to Dr Wooldridge to seek his assurance that a mental health counsellor will be located in the ACT for indigenous people living in the ACT and the surrounding region. I have also sought the Minister's support to ensure that genuine consultation with all key stakeholders will occur in future prior to decisions regarding health services for indigenous people in the ACT. The location of the mental health worker would be a matter for debate, although I think one of the possibilities would be Nimmityjah.

Mr Stanhope, I think the Commonwealth were quite negligent in not providing a mental health counsellor for indigenous people in the ACT. I think it shows a misunderstanding of the importance of such an issue to the ACT, particularly when 50 such positions were allocated around Australia. I will continue pushing the Federal Government to provide the indigenous people of the ACT with appropriate access to somebody of this kind.

Business Development Fund

MR HIRD: My question is to the Chief Minister. I would like to draw members' attention to the fact that on 2CC this morning there was a survey conducted by Yellow Pages which identified the strong support from the ACT Government and the leadership that the ACT Government is giving when compared with other similar jurisdictions. It shows that small business is really appreciating the leadership that this Government has shown. Chief Minister, I would like to refer to the Business Development Fund that was set up by the Government in its first term. Can you confirm that the fund has made its first major investment; and, if so, was this with a Canberra company?

MS CARNELL: Thank you very much, Mr Hird, for the question. I think this question is very relevant, taking into account that Mr Berry, in comments in the Estimates Committee, was somewhat negative about the Business Development Fund. Mr Speaker, the Business Development Fund was established in the ACT some 18 months ago. We did so because we wanted to help local companies - I stress "local companies" - that were trying to develop new products and innovations but could not reach the next level of development simply because they were too small.

Unlike our business incentive scheme, this fund invests in these companies. It takes a stake in the companies themselves. The returns are then ploughed straight back into the fund to enable further investments to occur. When we set up the Business Development Fund we set aside $2m as a capped amount of money and we encouraged the private sector to become involved. So far FAI have come on board and have invested $2m of their own money, making a total of $4m available from the fund. Mr Speaker, I should point out that the fund's auditor is the Auditor-General. Over the past 18 months the board has been assessing dozens of applications, but it was not until recently that a local company that had developed some extremely smart new technology came forward.

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