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Thursday, 29 November 2018
Page: 12113


Mr EVANS (Brisbane) (11:41): At the heart of our community in Brisbane are a number of urban villages and shopping strips. These are places where locals come together for a coffee or to have a meal. It's where many of us buy our newspapers and grocery supplies, get our hair cut and access services. It's where a lot of the community events are held. It's even where people who want to move into our great part of the world come to look in a real estate agent's window to find a house, a home, to rent or buy. These urban villages and shopping strips are also the places where many small businesses set up. They are a big part of the local economy. That means that they're places where the new local jobs are created, including, importantly, opportunities for younger locals to get their first jobs, their first foot in the door of the jobs market, and gain their first work skills and experience.

As you know, Deputy Speaker Laundy—as I come from a small-business family, grew up on the shop floor of family businesses and then led the National Retail Association—I have an understanding of how small business is the backbone of our local economy and just how hard it is that small business owners work. I know to keep an eye out for the health of local small businesses. The positive overall news about our economy as a whole, about record job numbers and record growth, doesn't automatically or necessarily mean that things are good in all sectors of the economy or in every location or in every shopping strip.

Locally in Brisbane I've been watching carefully, as have some other locals, the number of vacancies and the amount of business turnover in a few local shopping strips. I'm thinking particularly about places like the Paddington terraces, Kedron Brook Road in Wilston, and around Racecourse Road, where the number of vacancies and amount of business turnover have been noted by some residents and some local media.

It's not all doom and gloom in these urban villages. There are good reasons to be positive about each of them, yet, since my election two years ago, I've made a point of continuing to catch up with the local small business owners there, as well as the traders' groups that represent the businesses in each of those shopping strips. After considering the various causes that can challenge small businesses these days, including some big global trends for retail, various local factors, and considering, realistically, where government can and where government can't help, earlier this year, I resolved that I'd fight for some capital improvements to help each of these business strips remain attractive, safe, special and unique for local residents and shoppers to visit.

With the community's support, I'm making the case here in Canberra that we can all play a part to love our shops and support the urban villages and the shopping strips that are at the heart of our community. It's ultimately not for me or a government to decide what's best for various shopping strips. That should and does remain the decision of local businesses and local communities coming together. Yet a good representative can ensure that the conversation happens, that the consultation is conducted, and then make the case wherever it can be made to support the local community in ways that are appropriate.

Last week I took the Treasurer to visit Racecourse Road, and we held a round table there to listen to small businesses. The Treasurer was able to hear firsthand the plans that the local businesses there and their traders group have for revitalising their shopping strip and to listen to their concerns and feedback. It was a really good grassroots discussion. Similarly, last month I took the small business minister, Senator Cash, to a small business breakfast on the Paddington terraces, where we had a similar conversation.

I continue to advocate here in Canberra for those capital improvements, and the community feedback continues to roll in. At this stage, we have thousands of people who have filled in the surveys that are available at local shops and small businesses on those shopping strips. I can say at this stage that overwhelmingly the feedback is very positive, both about the need for all levels of government to help improve our local communities and how these local urban villages hold a very special and unique place in the hearts of local residents. In the lead-up to Christmas I'm continuing to talk to local residents and businesses about what they want to see but, more importantly, I'm calling all residents to remember to love our shops and to make a conscious effort to buy at least some of our presents for family and friends from those local shops. Of course, if everyone did that, it would be like Santa paying a visit not just to local residents but to their shops as well.