It’s time for all the freeloaders on the Reef 2050 gravy train to get off at the next station and let taxpayer dollars help taxpayers. As yet another $12.6 million was thrown at the reef last week, it is time State and Federal Governments and their hangers-on are held to account. We’ve had $2.7 billion of taxpayers money thrown at the reef and in return we get policies demonising farmers and regulations designed to drive them out of business. We’re seeing millions and millions of dollars being poured into research that produces recommendations to send the Gravy Train back for more taxpayer money. It’s time the perpetual Reef 2050 Gravy Train was ground to a halt and the focus shifted to sustaining industry and jobs.
The amount of money being spent as part of Reef 2050 is absolutely disgraceful when ordinary Queenslanders are suffering so much stress and hardship.  I don’t think Government and their ‘hangers-on’ have any idea just how much bitterness is felt out here in the community at the unequal manner in which the COVID-19 lockdown has adversely impacted only certain sections of the community. It has been the elderly and the young, the ordinary workers in private industry, the sole traders, small business owners, regional and rural workers, who have borne the brunt of this. It’s not the Government, not the public institutions and not the public service sector that has copped the rough end of this pineapple.
The one thing the government could have done to actually help people in a practical way would have been to properly fund the QRIDA concessional loan facility. The Queensland Labor government promised to support small business and they spectacularly failed to do so with the facility suspended only weeks it started because it ran out of money.  The amount they made available for small business was just $500 million in a crisis of a scale we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. Meanwhile, the State and Federal governments are throwing $2.7 billion at the Great Barrier Reef with no result and no accountability.

The Queensland Labor government has dramatically cut the lifeline it threw to small businesses only weeks ago, abandoning business owners and their employees in their time of need. I have called on the State government to urgently restore the QRIDA concessional loan facility that it closed early, leaving small business without the cash flow to pay employees. Having only just thrown out the lifeline, the Labor government has cut off the line, leaving drowning businesses with nothing but a wet piece of rope.
The QRIDA loan facility was put in place specifically to help small business to retain their staff and make JobKeeper payments but the program was closed just a few weeks after being introduced.  Small business owners now have no means of raising the JobKeeper money ($1,500 a fortnight for each eligible employee) that must be paid from 1 March 2020 in order to qualify for the Federal Government’s ‘reimbursement’ under the JobKeeper program in mid-May.
Many businesses are struggling to keep going in the current environment and I expect we will see widespread failure of small business if the Government doesn’t act immediately to redress the situation. The issue was compounded by the State Government putting a wide range of its Advance Queensland direct grants, designed to support small business, ‘on hold’, including the Entrepreneur Grant, the Digital grant and the Ignite Grant. These grants were vital in helping to stimulate and support small business in Queensland and shutting them down now, when small business is already struggling more than any other sector, is going to have a disastrous impact on many small business owners.
We can’t have small business owners, who are the job-creators, becoming the ‘forgotten people’ of COVID-19 as numerous businesses report they are being turned away by the banks or forced to rely on family and friends to provide short-term loans.
QRIDA loans that were paid out seem to have gone primarily to larger businesses who had the means to “get in quick”. Some big businesses even applied under different business entities and received multiple loans under different company names. Small business does not have access to the array of professional services and consultants that big business does and many have gone to make a QRIDA loan application, only to be told the program was fully subscribed weeks ago and now closed. This is an appalling situation and the Palaszczuk government needs to introduce a follow-up loan program, specifically geared towards small businesses. It should focus on those with fewer than 19 staff and maybe put a cap on the annual earnings of the business to ensure that the larger businesses don’t run off with all the money this time.