Page 204 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 11 February 2015

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The motion I bring to this place today goes to the heart of why I got involved in politics in the first place. It goes to the heart of everything that is wrong with the way this Labor government treat local businesses, particularly locally owned small and medium businesses here in the ACT.

The latest statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics state that there are over 24,000 small businesses registered in the ACT. From both sides of the chamber it has been widely acknowledged that small businesses are the driving force of our economy. Survival rates for locally owned businesses are grim. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, of the businesses operating in June 2009, the lowest survival rate for all the states and territories was seen here in the ACT, with a rate of 60.3 per cent—that is, almost 40 per cent of businesses that were operational here in 2009 no longer have their doors open today.

It is extremely disturbing to see the Chief Minister announce that there will soon be a dedicated business advocate—not for the fact that the government will now have an advocate-type role but more for the fact that this has been a glaring omission in the past 16 years of government and we are only now recognising a need. According to the Chief Minister’s statement yesterday, the advocate’s first job will be to “work with local industry to identify improvements to government procurement processes”. The Chief Minister said:

I am particularly concerned to ensure that our rules and regulations are not designed around compliance capacity or the needs of big players in a way which distorts the procurement process against … local firms.

The Chief Minister went on to say:

Our local businesses tell me they do not need protection or any special advantages. They just need a fair go when they compete for government work … The advocate will work exclusively in the interests of the ACT business community to ensure work that can and should be done by ACT businesses stays in the ACT.

Unfortunately, this announcement comes a little late for some locally owned businesses that I have recently come across who are pretty unhappy with the way that they have been treated over a number of years. The cynic in me says that this is just another way to pay lip-service to local business. It is simply not enough to talk the talk. This government by now should well and truly be able to walk the walk. The case is yet to be made by the Chief Minister as to what the business advocate will be able to do that the members opposite are not. I fear this is simply another announcement in order to turn around what has been a less than impressive start to Mr Barr’s term as Chief Minister.

To stem the downward trend of survival rates in the ACT for local businesses, for them to survive and thrive, government policies need to be structured to encourage new businesses to start up and allow established businesses already in the marketplace to thrive.

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