Page 2556 - Week 08 - Thursday, 30 June 2005

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Proposed expenditure—Part 1.13—Department of Economic Development, $50,786,000 (net cost of outputs), $30,450,000 (capital injection) and $7,029,000 (payments on behalf of the territory) totalling $88, 265,000.

Debate resumed.

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (3.48): I propose to make a few more comments on this area of expenditure that I commenced addressing prior to the lunch break. I am sure Australian Capital Tourism, under its current leadership and management, has the best intentions but I really have some grave doubts that the ambitions they have in relation to attracting more events are going to be fulfilled. Not only is the events unit not growing, it is in fact contracting, as emerged in the course of questioning. I mentioned earlier, and it is important to restate, that we are simply not getting a fair share of the tourist dollar in this city. We are most definitely performing poorly in relation to the international market. These are areas that I did not feel in the course of estimates were satisfactorily addressed. I think there is a part-time representative in Singapore but I am not quite sure what will be the end effect of all of that. The reality is that there are many international visitors coming into this country who are capable of making impulse travel decisions, particularly amongst the international backpacking market, which has been identified as a very valuable source of tourism dollars, which we ought to be aggressively pursuing.

On another front in relation to this, despite the fanfare that has emerged in the post-economic white paper euphoria, the government announced funding for a suite of programs directed principally at small and micro businesses in the ACT. One of these programs was the small business employment ready program. It was allocated $0.258 million in 2004-05 and $0.103 million in each of the outyears. This funding was provided after a pilot of this program had been run for a couple of years. Evidence of the use of this program and of the benefits that it provided to very small and emerging businesses is that, as business assistance programs go, it was successful. In particular, it assisted these types of business to overcome the critical hurdles involved in employing staff for the first time.

It was discovered rather belatedly that this program had its funding cut after only one year of operation. When I look at the web site for the Canberra Business Advisory Service it says, in large type across the top, that the ready to employ program will end on 30 June 2005. So it is not just the ATSIC funding that comes to an end today. In Mr Quinlan’s area, his ready to employ program, which sounds like a commendable program in that it is all about ensuring “your business is ready to take on staff” and assisting you to “develop processes and procedures to confidently grow your successful team and meet your compliance requirements.” It also states you will receive “ongoing support should you encounter any issues”—probably only up until midnight tonight—and, “best of all”, ready to employ is “funded by the ACT government.” I think it is disappointing that something that sounds as important as that, and apparently it has had success, should meet the chop, and especially as a program it obviously has ongoing benefit for the Canberra community in assisting business and creating employment.

There was no suggestion in any comments that we have heard throughout all of estimates that there was anything amiss with the small business employment ready program—indeed, to the contrary. The clear inference was that all of the suite of programs would be

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