Public Accounts and Estimates Committee: budget estimates 2015–16 (hearings alert)
Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — I rise to speak on the report of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee on the 2015–16 budget estimates. The particular issue I raise is the evidence given by the then Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade, Adem Somyurek, a member for South Eastern Metropolitan Region in the other place. The transcript of his contribution is of a number of discussions about jobs and various funds and activities, such as a Start Up Victoria fund that was still being formed. There was discussion also about $20 million for a New Energy Jobs Fund. A whole lot of numbers were thrown about, but nothing was being done.
What concerned me about the discussions was the grand final eve holiday. It is purported by industry that the cost of this holiday will be some $850 million, and that figure is growing. There has been a lot of evidence from many people in various electorates about just what impact this holiday will have locally. I know in my area of Caulfield we have businesses such as private security firms, one of which employs some 500 people locally. That particular business does bill collection and runs a call centre that works right across Victoria and other states, so it has no choice but to be open. When questioned about this particular holiday, the current Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade said it is really up to the business whether it opens or not. One would suggest that that is not the case when a business is located in Victoria but has operations in other states. It will have a huge impact on such businesses and will further accelerate the levels of costs that we are hearing about.
A number of real estate agents are saying they are not listing on that weekend; they are just calling it one big long weekend. So during that time we will see a lack of activity in the real estate market, which makes it difficult for homebuyers, certainly, and for the economy generally.
One of the important areas I think this will have a huge impact on — and I understand we have the Minister for Tourism and Major Events in the house — is tourism, because it is absolutely certain that when you have a holiday on the Friday, and we are talking about a grand final parade which was a significant event in the city, there will be an impact on the city retailers. Also effectively what we will have is a whole lot of business activity increasing interstate, not in Victoria. You will find a whole lot of Victorians heading interstate to contribute to the economy in other states, and they will not be here where they normally would be during that grand final period. That will certainly have a huge impact and will contribute to the dollars that it has already been suggested will be lost by industry when those sorts of things are taken into account.
The other thing that will particularly affect us locally is that a number of the retailers and businesses down streets such as Carlisle Street will have to be open because in the time leading to the Sabbath is when they sell their local produce. They have no choice but to be open on the Friday; it is an important day for them. Therefore many of those retailers will be paying penalty rates of two and a half times the usual hourly rate. They certainly will not be making any money, but will just be struggling to keep the doors open for their customers. I have spoken to shop owners, including many cafe owners and smaller retailers in the local area, even hairdressers, and they are all saying if they could they would choose to close. Some of them are undecided as to whether they are going to stay open or not, but some of them are just saying, ‘We just have to try to keep the doors open’, which is a real struggle for them. This will have a huge impact.
I think the biggest issue as well is that the government has just forced this through. Many of these businesses have not been provided with adequate information, so there is huge confusion out there as to what the rates are, what the impact is and whether or not these businesses should be open or should close.