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Question: Business Support During COVID-19

18 November 2021


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Treasurer on the topic of business support during COVID-19.

A report released earlier this week found that the amount of vacant retail space in the Adelaide CBD is at its highest level since 1993. With South Australia's borders set to open on Tuesday, Business SA CEO, Martin Haese, has called for the federal and state governments to provide reasonable financial support to those businesses that are forced to close down due to staff being in quarantine. My question to the Treasurer therefore is: what is the government's plan to assist or compensate businesses that will be impacted by COVID-19 in the weeks ahead, and what is the government's plan to reduce shop vacancies in the CBD?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): If I could just lower the temperature of question time a little bit and modulate and moderate my voice a little, the second part of the question is relatively easy; that is, the only solution to challenges for job growth and economic growth is actually to adopt the sort of policies this government is adopting to grow the economy and grow jobs.

I would imagine the Greens would support the position this government is putting that there is no earthly reason why our state's economic growth and jobs growth shouldn't at least track at around about the national average over a long period of time. For 20 years, we have tracked at about half or two-thirds of the national average.

If we want to keep young South Australians in South Australia and if we want to attract people to South Australia, we have to make sure that jobs growth and economic growth track at around about the national average during that period. The only sensible way of doing that is to make sure that the costs of doing business in our state are competitive nationally and internationally. We do not have to be the cheapest jurisdiction in the nation or the world, but we certainly can't afford to be the most expensive.

We have to be competitive, because all the other attributes that we have and we love—the fact that we are the third most livable city in the world, the most livable city in Australia, our work-life balance arrangements, the fact that we have a government which is leading the nation and is one of the leaders in the world in terms of zero emissions and renewable energy policies—all of those attractions that we have, all of those things, are inbuilt ticks and attractions for people to want to invest and to grow jobs in the state.

The only solution to the sort of issues Martin Haese and others are identifying in terms of jobs, not just in the CBD but in the regions and in the suburbs as well, is that we have to have an environment that allows people to grow jobs. In the CBD, what we are seeing with the announcement cognisant today, PwC and others coming to the CBD, albeit at Lot Fourteen and the eastern end of CBD Adelaide, nevertheless still the CBD, is thousands and thousands of jobs both now and over the future for people in the CBD. What that does is it gives the capacity for cafes and restaurants and others to do business in the city. That's the challenge that this government has.

I could speak further, but I won't. Not that this was a Dorothy Dixer; this came from the Hon. Mr Simms. It is almost a Dorothy Dixer but I won't treat it as a Dorothy Dixer—I won't on the second part of the question. The first part of the question is, and I responded to that question I think from the Hon. Mr Pangallo earlier in the week, that we recently applied to the federal government for assistance for the relief programs and grant programs provided to Mount Gambier. The federal government said, consistent with their public policies nationally, they are moving away from providing federally funded business assistance. For that reason, in Mount Gambier we went ahead and we funded the Mount Gambier assistance for the period of the lockdown, as a state government.

There is nothing that currently exists in relation to ongoing business support, to answer the question specifically. We will monitor what, if anything, other state governments do. At this stage, we are not aware of any ongoing state government funded programs. We are not aware of any federal government funded programs in relation to the specific circumstances to which Martin Haese and the honourable member have referred. We will monitor it, but at this stage the answer to the question is that we do not have current programs that meet that particular descriptor the honourable member has asked about.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: just to confirm, Treasurer, aside from monitoring you are not doing anything in terms of providing any support to businesses at the moment?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): No, we actually provided state government funded assistance to Mount Gambier recently. In relation to what might exist today, the answer to the question is we are doing a lot. We are trying to reduce the cost of doing business for everybody so that their businesses can grow. If you are talking about: do we have a grant program for those businesses that are failing and are in trouble? We do not have a grant program at the moment for those businesses that are failing, or closing, or running into specific problems in relation to COVID. I can't be any more explicit than that. It is a direct answer to a direct question.