House debates

Thursday, 2 September 2021


COVID-19: Small Business, Greenway Electorate: Charitable Organisations

4:54 pm

Photo of Michelle RowlandMichelle Rowland (Greenway, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] Small businesses in Greenway are hurting. They are hurting financially. They are hurting from a lack of certainty. They are frustrated because the federal government has not been on their side. On Tuesday night, I held a small-business forum and was joined by Stephen Kamper, the New South Wales shadow minister for small business, someone with deep expertise in the area; and Trevor Oldfield, the President of the Greater Blacktown Business Chamber. I'd like to echo a sentiment put forward by Steve at our forum and acknowledge the sacrifices that small businesses are making for the safety of our entire community. As Steve said, it is a big ask to forego your revenue, hold onto your business and still maintain the costs of your home. On behalf of Greenway, we take our hats off to our local small businesses for their patience and their sacrifices.

There are over 5,000 small businesses in Greenway. These are good people from all walks of life. They believe in enterprise and risk-taking. They want to be financially successful, to live a good life and to provide for their families. That's what I admire about small-business owners: their tenacity to make their own way. Small-business owners do not ask much of governments, but during the pandemic governments have asked much of them. They have required many businesses to close or severely limit their activities in order to limit the spread of the virus. Despite these sacrifices, when the delta outbreak in Sydney began, the Morrison government refused to reinstate JobKeeper for New South Wales businesses. This was incredibly disappointing from the Prime Minister and the federal Treasurer, but also revealing about their lack of understanding. It was only after pressure from small businesses, Labor and, indeed, the New South Wales government that a new form of support was introduced.

But there remain many challenges. There are many manufacturing businesses in my electorate. They build kitchens and assemble production lines. You name it, they do it. What some of these businesses tell me is that they need low-cost or interest-free loans to honour stock contracts and help them get to the other side of the lockdown, where there is pent-up demand for their products and services. The federal government's business loan scheme seeks to charge up to 10 per cent or 7½ per cent on loans. The feedback I'm receiving is these rates unfortunately just don't work for many businesses. Small businesses, including hairdressers and beauty salons, for example, are also anxious about what a reopening means for their liability. They need to keep customers and their employees safe. They need certainty about the indemnity framework in New South Wales. They need to know what the plan is.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the charitable organisations in Greenway and servicing Greenway, who have used this challenging time of deep economic and emotional strain to help those hit hardest and keep our community going. Last week, I visited the Turbans 4 Australia team at their warehouse, where they assemble packages filled with delicious food and essential sanitary items for those who need it, and, more recently, educational material for children of all ages. Turbans 4 Australia are a charity spearheaded by Amar Singh. They were founded in 2015 and, to this day, embody the Sikh values of equality, respect and service to humanity. Whether it is helping farmers out in Dubbo during drought or helping victims of cyclones in Queensland, Turbans 4 Australia have been out there helping people from all walks of life.

Over the weekend, I was joined by my state parliamentary colleagues Chris Minns, Lynda Voltz and Julia Finn as we masked up and packed veggies and groceries with the Hindu Benevolent Fund. Only yesterday, I paid a visit to the team of amazing volunteers at Hands and Feet in Kings Park in my electorate, who provide everything from clothing to food for over 1,500 people per week through the local church networks. Throughout these visits to charitable organisations, I saw volunteers working tirelessly to ensure that no-one is left behind, and always with a smile under their masks. Among experiences of adversity, sacrifice and immense struggle in the grip of this lockdown, particularly in a lockdown electorate such as Greenway, there have emerged acts of generosity and community spirit. Their kindness has created a safety net for our most vulnerable residents in Western Sydney.

I would also like to wish our celebrating constituents a happy Janmashtami for this week and a fulfilling Ganesh Chaturthi for next week. May Lord Ganesha fill your life with prosperity and success. Although you are sadly observing these auspicious occasions virtually this year, I very much look forward to celebrating them again in person with you all for many years to come.