Opposition ups ante on small business support

The NSW Opposition will host a small business round table in the Mountains next month to address concerns that people are still struggling after the fires.

At a meeting with local businesses in Blackheath last week, Opposition leader John Robertson heard from some who said they felt abandoned by the NSW Government.

Raelene Allen, owner of clothes shop Ravir, said she had been invited to meet with various authorities last October when there was talk of low-interest loans, of small grants and of special Centrelink payments.

“But it was a total waste of time because nothing eventuated for anyone out of that meeting. It all came to naught,” she said.

Ms Allen said many in the Mountains felt they had been left high and dry. 

“And a lot of them [businesses] wouldn’t speak out because there’s a sense of shame too — you don’t want people to know you are doing it tough.”

She had been forced to reduce hours for some of her staff after the fires.

“But what hurt most was false promises and false hope. There was just nothing and it’s too late, it’s far too late now.”

Ms Allen and Adele Colman from the Blackheath Chamber of Commerce, met Mr Robertson, shadow minister for small business, Adam Searle and ALP candidate, Trish Doyle.

Ms Colman said: “The Blackheath and Mt Victoria area is a tourist-based economy and because of that the businesses, and therefore the people who work in the businesses, have been very heavily affected by the fires.

“Our area is slower to bounce back than other areas and I think there’s been a lack of acknowledgement of that and help hasn’t been forthcoming in any way,” she said

Mr Robertson said Labor was keen to hear from Mountains business owners. 

“Labor’s biggest priority in the Blue Mountains is jobs,” he said. 

“The bushfires have left a lasting hit. The impact goes beyond tourism — and it goes beyond those communities in the immediate fire zone. 

“Labor is keen to hear directly from local businesses about what government can do to instil a sense of confidence again.” 

Mr Searle noted that the promised low-interest loans had been abandoned and said another government scheme — a payroll tax subsidy — had been criticised by the NSW Business Chamber as “ineffective and... not providing employers with any significant incentive to take on additional staff”. 

“There’s no point handing out millions of dollars to large businesses when the real job creator is small business and the overwhelming majority of the sector doesn’t pay payroll tax,” Mr Searle said. 

Ms Doyle said she was delighted the Mountains will host the small business round table. 

“It’s something I’ve lobbied for furiously because I know people are struggling. The local economy needs help. Without the low interest loans, Raelene and countless other business owners are finding it  hard to buy stock and equipment and take on new staff with confidence,” she said.

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