11 August 2022

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (13:00): As my colleagues have duly noted, credit must be given to the Minister for the work he, his fantastic staff and department have done in rolling out vouchers within the Service NSW app. Similar schemes have been instituted in jurisdictions around the world to stimulate economies and to support households that are suffering financial strain. As the member for Swansea pointed out, households across this State have been under extraordinary pressure over the past few years through fire, flood, COVID and with the rising cost of living with interest rates, tolls or taxes. There have been substantial impacts on local businesses, particularly in the hospitality and tourism sector. My electorate relies on those sectors and it has suffered significantly. The investment in this program was supposed to help revitalise local economies. It is alarming to see that millions of dollars failed to reach local businesses, particularly regional and rural businesses. As the member for Bega pointed out, it was half a relief.

The member for Swansea, the shadow Minister for Customer Service and shadow Minister for Digital; and the shadow Minister for Regional NSW and the shadow Minister for Western NSW, alongside the Opposition leader, called for those vouchers to be extended at the end of June. The figures in the Blue Mountains electorate show a significant underspend. We had near $3.5 million of unredeemed vouchers and near 50 per cent of unclaimed Dine & Discover vouchers. It is interesting to hear Government members speak about figures in a positive note and I understand why they would do that. For instance, in the Liverpool LGA there was a $1.9 million underspend in dine vouchers and $4.3 million unspent in discovery vouchers. In the Wollondilly LGA, there was $513,000 unspent in dine vouchers and over $1 million unspent in discovery vouchers. The figures speak for themselves.

As has been pointed out, we all supported the concept. We welcomed this investment to revitalise our local economies. All members encouraged people to use the vouchers, to support their local businesses, to help those who were hurting. People in my electorate often said to me, "It's a good idea, but so many of our businesses were deemed ineligible." Further, many people in my community had to travel off the mountains to visit businesses to use the vouchers. That was reported to me again and again. I received an email saying, "We operate the Ben Roberts Cafe at Lawson, Trish, as you know, where some of our disability programs operate. I've attempted to register the Ben Roberts Cafe in this Dine & Discover voucher scheme but we are not eligible because we are recorded as Meals On Wheels. We were sent to Service NSW and then back to the ATO, who then referred to Service NSW. People have problems and we need your assistance."

The Glenbrook Cinema owners said to me, "It is an excellent initiative for our customers and for our little cinema, but people cannot redeem these vouchers online through our ticketing software. Large commercial cinemas like Hoyts have big pockets, but small businesses like Glenbrook Cinema do not." We hear this Government commending itself again and again for offering cost-of-living relief, but those figures are clear evidence that it has not worked.