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Small Business

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Tags: Small Business, COVID-19

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, it is a very difficult time for so many small businesses in Tasmania. All members would be confronted regularly through our offices or personally with stories of people who had a hard time last year and are having an even harder time this year.

The high number of Delta variant cases in New South Wales and Victoria struggling to get on top of them has made a huge impact on tourism and trade in Tasmania. It has slowed the transport of goods and services across all industries. The state has done what it can to adapt but unfortunately the basis on which some people have established their small business means they are just not able to adapt. If you do not have people coming through your door you cannot manufacture them, you cannot pay staff. You can only hold on for so long. As was predicted in the middle of last year, when JobKeeper finished was going to be the hardest time for Australians. Tasmanians in small business have not found themselves to be in a different situation to people in the rest of Australia.

What does the Government do in response? The Greens would be expecting the Liberal Premier to be shouting with outrage to the Prime Minister about why he has not continued JobKeeper. We have never heard the Premier come make a public statement about that. We have never heard him stand up for Tasmanians who are doing it so hard. Small business owners who are on the brink of ruin, if they have not already gone under - those are the people he should be standing up for. It is a really cruel form of economic management that Josh -

Mr Jaensch - Premier Gutwein has not stood up for Tasmanians?

Dr WOODRUFF - Not in this instance.

Mr Jaensch - Is that what you are saying? He sat on his hands all through the pandemic?

Dr WOODRUFF - Correct. Not in his interest. We do not hear it.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order, minister.

Dr WOODRUFF - The minister is interjecting. We have not heard it, so we would really like to hear the Premier make some very strong statements about the failure of the federal Liberal party to stand up for Tasmanians and provide economic support through this crisis, because that is where it should be, and that is how we continue economies. Successful economies have that social support when it is required. We saw the evidence of how well it has worked in Australia. Now we are seeing the evidence of how it is becoming unstitched after JobKeeper was removed.

There is a level of denialism in the federal Liberal Party on so many issues. Climate denialism is right at the top, but COVID-19 denialism is hot on its heels. There is a distorted reality that the Prime Minister lives within, probably because his particular religious beliefs; somehow, he does not seem to attend to the factual realities of life on Earth today. Things are only going to change if we take agency and do that ourselves. It is the hand of human beings and leaders to make decisions for people today about the challenges confronting us. Putting our head in the sand about how we respond to COVID-19 and respond to climate change - the greatest threat to human beings - is a disastrous approach.

All people around Australia who attend to science, who are open and understand the reality of what is happening on the planet, realise we have to take a different approach.

In Tasmania, when it comes to small business owners, this Government needs to have more transparency about how the grants process is conducted, and demonstrate that there is fairness in the way people's applications are received and processed. I commend the people who have been working on advisory panels making decisions about who gets grants. It is obviously a very hard job. There were a lot of applications last year, and there will continue to be a lot of applications.

We have had a number of contacts from people who just point out that the system seems designed to specifically keep out the most needy. I understand - and the minister may correct me if I am wrong - that people who are now on under $50 000 are not eligible. One of those people contacted the Greens directly with his very sad message. Last year he had some funding because he had the federal government/state government COVID-19 assistance, but because he has been in the events sector, and there are no conferences and fewer weddings for the past 16 months, he can no longer meet the criteria, because his income has systemically and serially fallen below the threshold.

The system is upside down, as he said. It is like the Salvos saying you cannot have any assistance because you are too homeless. It is really harsh when people like him who are the most needy do not fit the guidelines.

We also had some correspondence on behalf of a person last year who failed to meet the threshold. Eventually, after our advocacy for this person, they did receive financial assistance, but there was no openness about that process, and the minister did not contact that person directly or offer a review process.

Compassion, fairness and transparency are what is required.