Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:21):
My question is to the Minster for Small Business. The level crossing in Reservoir—High Street and Spring Street and Broadway and Cheddar Road— is currently under construction.
It started in late November 2018, and I do agree: I am very pleased to see it finally happening. But Reservoir traders were told by the Level Crossing Removal Project team that their businesses would only be affected in short three- and four-day slots.
However, four weeks ago that changed and High Street traffic was completely blocked from the Broadway and Edwardes Street shopping strips and will be blocked until Christmas. They were given four weeks notice for a four-month closure.
The traders are already reporting a 75 per cent loss. Can the minister please tell us what steps he is taking to ensure that these small businesses are not unduly affected by this $250 million project?
Mr SOMYUREK (South Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Small Business) (12:22):
I would like to thank the member for her question. Firstly, if I can say at the outset, what we have got here in the Big Build project are nation-building road and rail projects—
Well, state-building—state or nation-building projects that will be a courageous investment by the government. These are investments that had to be made, and they have been made.
I have got to say, it is going to be good for Victoria as residents will be able to move around town freely, and for small businesses it is going to be a boon because goods and services of small businesses will be able to be moved around, which will mean cost efficiencies for small business, which will mean improvements in productivity for small business, which will mean improvements in productivity for the entire state. So the Big Build project is fantastic not just for Victoria but for the entire nation.
When you are creating such massive amounts of infrastructure—record levels of infrastructure—there is going to be disruption. I have been disrupted. On the South Eastern Freeway I have been disrupted coming into town, and I have not liked it.
There will be disruption for small businesses because there has just got to be. Now, our job is to minimise that disruption to small businesses, and that is what we try to do.
At the early stages of the design of these projects this government has insisted that the construction companies take into account and have a plan to minimise disruption to small businesses. So all of these authorities have a range of protocols, and they have got a plan to make sure that disruption is minimised.
Together with that we have got the small business commissioner, who is an advocate—we have expanded her role and given her power to be an advocate—for small business. She is doing a fantastic job getting in front of these construction companies as well and advocating for the small business sector.
We have also got the Small Business Mentoring Service, which is working with the small business commissioner. The mentoring service might go out to these businesses that have been disrupted, and the small business commissioner will then take their potential solution to the construction companies, and largely these things have been resolved well for small business.
So I am very confident that all these authorities have got in place plans and protocols to ensure that the disruption to small business is minimised.
Ms Patten, before you ask your supplementary question, I noticed you were trying to listen to the answer to the question that you asked, and it is very hard for you and me to hear the answer when people on my left are being so robust. So maybe if they could give us the luxury of listening to your supplementary question and the minister’s answer, that would be great.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:26):
Thank you; I appreciate that, President. Minister, it has caused considerable disruption, and there was no notice to these small businesses. We have got a pizza shop delivery business that now cannot deliver hot pizzas because it takes 45 minutes to get around.
We have got businesses that ordered Halloween stock that cannot sell it, and they had no notice of this. They need assistance. This is a $250 million project.
There are 100 businesses that may not be alive at the end of this project to take advantage of the nation-building project that this is.
By way of supplementary question: would you commit to meeting with the traders and discussing some form of assistance, or would you coordinate a meeting with the small business commissioner and the traders to see if we can find a solution to their problem?
Mr SOMYUREK (South Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Small Business) (12:27):
I thank the member for her question. I am confident that in creating the protocols and the design of these projects they did all they could to ensure that the mechanisms were in place to minimise disruption to small business, even though these are big, nation-building projects.
To the member asking the question, I say I am happy to take details and we will get the Small Business Mentoring Service out there, and perhaps the small business commissioner might actually get out there too. I am happy to do that.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Question without notice asked 12/9/19