GEPP (Northern Victoria) (19:46): What a surprise that I am called first, but I will gladly take the slot. My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Small Business, and the action I seek is for her to ask the commissioner for small business to meet with the Shire of Nillumbik and small businesses in Nillumbik to ascertain if council is complying with the Small Business Friendly Council agreement that the commissioner and the shire signed up to in February of this year.
We all know that small business has been doing it tough doing COVID-19, which is why we as a government and particularly this minister have fought hard to secure grants and support for this important sector. I have been receiving some reports from businesses in the shire expressing concerns that council may not be or may not appear to be complying with the spirit of the agreement signed earlier this year. For example, in the lead-up to the introduction of outdoor dining businesses pleaded for weeks to be able to apply for permits. Finally, it was only when it was apparent that the issue may be raised in the media that businesses were sent a link to apply for permits, and this was only the day prior to their introduction. Another business has reported a 12-month process to get a permit to trade, followed by another nine months for the same business to secure a change of hours and be able to trade outdoors. This permit includes a raft of somewhat difficult conditions, including some that say they are not allowed to trade with any windows and doors open. That is going to be difficult of course in this period of COVID-19. A further business was issued with a stamped permit to trade outdoors in a car park. The business then endured a very difficult weekend, with the council’s local law officers expressing down the phone suggestions the police might be called if they did not desist from trading in that car park. None of these examples sound anything like the small business-friendly practices that have been talked about, and it is a great concern that the shire, who have signed up to this agreement, may not be complying.
I want to put on record my congratulations to new councillors elected to the Nillumbik council—Natalie Duffy, Geoff Paine, Frances Eyre, Ben Ramcharan and Richard Stockman—and I congratulate Cr Pete Perkins for being returned, as well as the outgoing mayor, who signed the agreement, Karen Egan. I offer my support and that of my government colleagues Minister Symes and Danielle Green and Vicki Ward from the other place to assist these councillors to get a more friendly business environment in the shire. I have no doubt that the Minister for Small Business will be keen to support those businesses also, and I know she has met with some of them most recently.