House of Representatives

Payment Times Reporting Bill 2020

In the coming weeks and months, I expect the government to provide a bit of payment transparency on three already announced schemes to support small businesses in bushfire affected areas.

On January 19, 2020, the government announced $76 million for tourism for bushfire areas. That will be six months ago next week and there is still little clarity on how that money will be spent. I checked the National Bushfire Recovery Agency website this morning, and I found that just seven per cent of this money has been spent.

Moreover, the NBRA website refers to a domestic tourism campaign called Live from Aus, but when I checked the link to Live from Aus I found that the campaign is almost totally unrelated to the bushfires. The campaign features ads, for instance, about brekky bowls with a chef from Bondi Beach, golf courses in the Melbourne bayside suburbs and underwater Great Barrier Reef tours.

As far as I know, neither Bondi Beach nor Melbourne’s bayside suburbs were hit by bushfires, and whilst we all know that the reef is boiling I truly doubt it was ever on fire. These are all worthy causes, and obviously coronavirus has hit tourism. A tourism push for all of these places is completely worthy, and we should be investing in tourism for all parts of Australia. I’ve been assured by the NBRA when I have asked them about this specifically: they said, ‘No, we’re not funding tourism campaigns outside bushfire areas,’ but as I said, I’m looking for transparency, and right now on the NBRA website this is where it takes you—Live from Aus.

When he launched the bushfire tourism scheme the Prime Minister said it would ‘tap into the Australian desire to contribute to the bushfire recovery effort by encouraging Aussies to holiday in Australia and provide support to affected communities and regions’.

From that perspective, I would expect that all the money put aside for bushfire recovery in tourism should be going to those regions. This bill talks about transparency with payment times, but what about some transparency for getting money to tourism businesses in bushfire regions? I’d really like to see that. I’d like to see the NBRA absolutely trumpeting a domestic tourism campaign focused on bushfire affected communities, places like those in my electorate, places like Beechworth and Mansfield, not Bondi and Brighton.

With the 93 per cent of funding still sitting there, we need a tourism campaign focused on Bega, on Eden, on Batemans Bay, on Mallacoota and of course on the many beautiful towns in Indi that I am so fond of and represent. Part of this money should be going to local tourism bodies to ensure that local ideas can get a guernsey.

Tourism North East has developed a pitch for a $750,000 digital commerce platform that would build the resilience of local tourism businesses across Indi by helping them to connect with their customers. This is exactly the type of long-term investment we should be using this tourism money for.

But tourism based small businesses aren’t the only ones still waiting for money to materialise.

In February I took a proposal to the government to support forestry businesses in the north-east. On May 11, the government announced some money, but they have since provided zero details about how it’s going to be spent and where it’s going to go. We need transparency; we need detail. On the same day, May 11, the government announced $448 million for local economic recovery plans, or LERPs, as they’re called, for bushfire affected areas. But again there is no detail about which places will get how much funding. It does appear that, yet again, places like Mansfield may miss out on this funding, despite being extremely hard hit by the loss of tourism trade. Again, where in June now. We need transparency; we need to get on with it.

This bill aims to provide transparency on how quickly government agencies pay small businesses for their services. As I said, I commend the bill, I support it and I will vote for it. But if this test was applied to the bushfire funding I fear that the government would not be receiving a very high mark. So while I commend this bill to the house, I implore the government to get serious about getting bushfire money out the door and to where it’s really needed.

[June 11, 2020]

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