Page 2071 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 6 June 2018
stop, the government has now blown out completion of construction to well over a year, maybe longer. Inadequate financial planning combined with a non-existent compensation system for these businesses means that there is no end in sight to their pain—more disruption, more chaos, more financial hardship, more job losses and more hurt for the already wounded small business community.
For whatever reason, the government does not seem to understand that these local small businesses are crucial providers of many products, services and employment in our community. All across Canberra hardworking small business owners are instrumental in growing our economy, providing more opportunities for Canberrans. This sort of hard work should be rewarded, not punished. The complete disregard of their current hardship is typical of this out-of-touch government. Meetings are all well and good but meetings do not help these businesses pay their rent, meetings do not allow these businesses to pay their staff. Every local business that is forced to cut back or close as a result of light rail construction means more people out of work and fewer services for the people of Gungahlin.
Ms Le Couteur has mentioned a number of interstate infrastructure projects but has conveniently failed to mention the Sydney light rail project. In New South Wales the state government implemented a rent relief scheme to help affected businesses in the Sydney light rail construction zone. Sydney businesses along the Sydney light rail route were awarded concessional rent support if their businesses employed fewer than 50 people. This is a thoroughly decent and responsible measure from the New South Wales government. Yet for some reason the ACT government refuses to extend the same courtesy to Canberra businesses.
In Sydney, businesses along the light rail corridor were also facing downturns of around 50 per cent. Staff reductions, downsizing and closures were on the cards for many of these retailers but, thankfully, the state government stepped in and provided compensation for these affected businesses. It is truly shocking that the ACT government has abdicated this responsibility to the Canberra business community when other governments have demonstrated very achievable strategies to support those affected by government construction projects.
Rent assistance, tax relief, interest-free loans, rate rebates—these are all potential solutions. More specifically, tailoring the level of compensation to the size and type of business, similar to the New South Wales government’s compensation policy, is not only fiscally responsible but very simply the right thing to do. If this government does not act, the ACT government will be responsible for irrevocably destroying parts of Canberra’s small business community. Two years of financial hardship is enough. Small businesses in Gungahlin and Mitchell deserve more from this government.
MS ORR (Yerrabi) (12.11): I rise today to speak in support of the amended motion. I firstly want to say I do feel for the local businesses and the local community in Gungahlin. As a resident of Franklin, I can appreciate the building works and the impacts they are having, as I have experienced them firsthand. I also appreciate that these works will be completed shortly and that the completed projects will make a positive contribution to our community.