Page 2562 - Week 08 - Thursday, 30 June 2005

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contrast that with activity in other jurisdictions. Victoria, for example, not only announced but is already well into the process of the design and building of a new convention centre in Melbourne. That will build on the other convention centre they have, which is colloquially known as Jeff’s shed, which must be about a decade old now. Again, there is a commitment to tourism in Victoria that sees real activity and real action being taken.

Alongside that, the Northern Territory has initiated a public/private partnership to design and build a new convention centre and exhibition centre as part of the Darwin city waterfront redevelopment project. There is a government that did not have any trouble in getting a partner to do it. Indeed the Queensland government has also just opened a new convention centre on the Gold Coast—they managed to get it done as well. It strikes me as odd that only the ACT has difficulty in getting new or upgraded facilities.

All our competitors for national and international conventions are moving ahead, and what are we doing in the ACT? We are mucking around spending months and months before any decisions are made to refurbish our existing convention centre. Then, when we talked about the detail of what might happen, some of the quantum was still unknown. The issue was raised that some structural flaws had been found in the roof and it was unknown how much that was going to cost. At a time when the Treasurer is taking money out of the convention centre and diverting it to other activities, we are not sure how much the planned refurbishment is going to cost. So again you have to look at the processes here and be seriously worried by what this government is doing.

Turning to the small business commissioner, the opposition remains ambivalent about the need for and the role of the small business commissioner. Evidence to date does not ameliorate this ambivalence. The estimates committee was told by the commissioner that there are two immediate projects—the development of public service charters and the development of a dispute mediation service. These may be important and valuable projects or activities, but you have to ask how much it would be possible to utilise any existing models or charters of mediation services, of which there are many; and there are some in place. Are we simply in danger of reinventing the wheel to justify the position that the government thought indicated to small business that it was somehow on its side? We will continue to observe the activities of the commissioner and we will continue to assess and evaluate the value of that position within the ACT bureaucracy.

Much was made in the government’s white paper about its commitment to small business and how we were going to make the ACT the most business-friendly jurisdiction in the country. We all say words, but it is about living up to them and making sure we deliver on them. We are continually told by the Stanhope government that it is business-friendly. I think most were surprised to learn, almost by accident, that the government has ceased funding to what small business saw as an important small business program: the small business employment-ready program.

That program has demonstrated its benefits. It was valuable because it helped many people across the territory to find jobs. More importantly, it had a process in place that allowed small businesses that were not particularly good at employing people and getting a start from zero, or a small number of employees, up to one or more employees on the way. Was this highlighted in the budget? No, it was not. Was the estimates committee told that this funding would be cut? No, we certainly were not. On the contrary, I think

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