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Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Page: 1191

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (21:09): On Friday, 13 February this year the Business Enterprise Centre Ipswich Region, or BECIR, learnt that it would not receive the Commonwealth funding it requires to continue to operate in the Ipswich and West Moreton region. It will close this Friday. The Abbott government's refusal to renew BECIR's funding is a disaster for small business in Blair, Oxley and Wright. This region currently has nine per cent unemployment. It reveals a government that has abandoned small business in the Ipswich region.

BECIR is a success story. This non-profit, small business advisory service has delivered invaluable assistance to small businesses in Ipswich, the Somerset region, the Lockyer Valley and the Scenic Rim since the mid-2000s. It has also had a focus on Indigenous small business, with an incubator operating at Turley Street at Raceview for start-up businesses and those businesses in distress that need a home. BECIR supported many businesses through the global financial crisis and the floods that devastated our community in 2011 and 2013, particularly with workshops and one-on-one assistance with mentoring. Under the management of Tony Axford and now Michael Crowley, BECIR has worked to improve the health of many of the 13,400 small businesses in the region of Ipswich alone. Integral to the recovery of our region after the floods, BECIR is well regarded and respected in the Ipswich region.

I believe that, after the money that I along with Bernie Ripoll, the member for Oxley, secured for the upgraded Ipswich Motorway on the election of the Rudd government in 2007, the $1.2 million I secured for BECIR is the most important funding I have secured since being elected to this place. Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said he was appalled by this decision of the Abbott government. He condemned it as short-sighted and mean-spirited. He said that small businesses in the Ipswich region have been left high and dry, and I agree with Paul.

Michael Crowley says that at any given time he can have 50 active clients and the Ipswich City Council Office of Economic Development refers at least one client per week to Michael and his team. There are 8,300 small businesses in Ipswich. According to the ABS data, each year approximately 1,200 small businesses open in Ipswich but at the moment about 1,400 businesses close. Michael has said:

It costs the Government about $700 per year for each business I support. How much will it cost the Government when their business fails and they land back on Centrelink?

There are no small business advisory services now—

or there will be none—

West of Brisbane, as far as the border. The nearest is at Coorparoo—

which is in Brisbane—

but it has to service all of SE Queensland.

You cant be "For Business" and ignore small business.

You cant be "For Jobs" and ignore small business.

You cant be "For Productivity" if you spend your resources where you have the fewest customers …

I note that the BECIR funding was provided under the Small Business Advisory Services Program, that four of the five organisations that got funding in Queensland were from Central Queensland and North Queensland, that three of the five were in LNP areas, that two-thirds of the people in Queensland live in South-East Queensland and that no small business advisory services across the Ipswich and West Moreton region will operate after this Friday. Where is the member for Wright on this? Where are the other members who get these kinds of services across the region for their small businesses?

I urge and implore the Minister for Small Business to reverse this decision. This decision is wrong. He claims he is for small business, but this funding has been cut. We know how important chambers of commerce, trade unions, service organisations, councils as well as the BECIR were in the aftermath of the floods. Those services were absolutely vital. I saw farmers and small businesses on their knees after the floods and I saw Tony and then Michael help them day after day after day. I have been to Turley Street Raceview many times. I have seen the workshops and attended the conferences, the displays and the seminars they run. Minister, reverse this decision. Fund this service. I urge and implore you now.