My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade. One of the first institutions I visited in my region after being elected was, unusually, a convent — the Abbotsford Convent. I have always loved the space, regardless of its history of cruelty to women and children and the other nefarious things it was host to. It is beautiful. Since the CEO of the Abbotsford Convent Foundation, Maggie Maguire, made me aware that this not-for-profit community-run venue was being hit by a congestion levy, I have been campaigning for its removal.
The convent attracts 1.3 million visitors every year and is a major cultural and tourist hub in the electorate of Northern Metropolitan Region. It does not charge an entry fee, so it is a great option for families in my region. A few weeks ago I joined thousands of those families — music lovers enjoying the sun and an amazing range of music. It is a wonderful place for musicians, both those who are established and those who are emerging. There is lots of space for children and plenty of room for even grown-ups to roam. It also provides a great incubator for artisans such as jewellers, potters and so on.
The convent receives no ongoing state funding. In fact under its contract it must produce a modest profit every year but must not receive ongoing funding — although I do acknowledge the generous donation by the previous Labor government for restoration works at the site. The car park at the convent is its main income stream, but it is eaten away by an annual congestion levy of $288 000. I understand that municipal councils, religious bodies, charitable or benevolent institutions, libraries, museums and zoos are exempt from this levy, so I think extending it to the convent, even though there are no nuns there anymore, just makes common sense.
In May the minister advised me that the government was reviewing the congestion levy. The action I request is that the government now exempt the convent from this unfair and unwarranted congestion levy.