What do Tasmanians want from this year’s COVID-hit state budget?

 In Home News Section, Uncategorized

Invermay Road in Mowbray is one of Launceston’s busiest streets with a steady flow of traffic and a flurry of people dashing into grocers and take-away shops.

Here, the smell of spices wafts out of restaurants as the lunch hour rush begins in the northern suburbs.

This area has a strong Bhutanese and Nepalese population, a younger demographic and a median weekly income below the Tasmanian average.

Tasmania’s COVID-19-delayed state budget will be released on Thursday with an already flagged $1.1 billion deficit and even higher net debt prediction.

So what are business owners and residents of Mowbray wanting to see in it?

Gagandeep Bansal moved to Australia from India five years ago to find employment.

He was working in Hobart’s Spice House store when he heard of customers travelling six hours return from Burnie to buy their wholesale spices and groceries.

The company has now opened a store at the southern end of Invermay Road to cater for the northern customers and are hoping to one day expand to the north-west.

“If government is paying some attention to retail businesses, so maybe their business can grow, they can create more jobs for the community,” he said.

“We would be very happy to provide our services all over Tasmania, so that would be a major benefit for the businesses.”

The Government has already announced some measures to help businesses, such as $22 million for apprentices — part of that in payroll tax rebates — and $1 million to establish a tourism and hospitality training organisation.

But Mr Bansal is also hoping the budget will have funds to give small businesses confidence as they look to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

“After COVID a lot of people have lost their jobs, I think government is not recognising retail as a good business,” he said.

“If the government starts giving some incentives to the businesses, they can hire some people, they can give some proper training.”

Geraldine Flood and her husband have owned the furniture shop next door for 11 years, almost as long as they have owned their dog Molly, who keeps a watchful eye from the front counter.

“People come into the shop just to see her and they have little gifts or snacks,” Mrs Flood said.

Most days, your can find Mrs Flood and Molly walking to work as they avoid the seemingly never ending flow of traffic.

She hopes money is allocated to improve transport in the area as “it’s too congested”.

“You only have to go down Invermay Road or go out to the highway, it’s very congested, especially around school time.”

While there is public transport in the suburb, the most common method of travel for those on their way to work is by car.

Further up the road, the buzzing sound of a tattoo gun is drowned out by the traffic as Avery Harwood puts the finishing touches on his latest creation.

Covered in ink creations himself, Mr Harwood’s beard fails to cover his grin as he gets back to work after the pandemic forced him to put down the tools for 76 days.

“It was a bit of a shock, because I mean, most of us have all got house payments and things like that,” he said.

Despite Mr Harwood’s temporary business closure, he does not want a hand-out from the government’s struggling coffers.

Over the constant hum of the tattoo gun, he offers this assessment:

“Money, money always going out. It all helps, people spend money in the community, but I think they need to stop giving money away,” he said.

“I think the government gives too much money away.”

Back down the road, Jill Strauss is helping keep a watchful eye over the suburb where she has lived for about 30 years.

She weaves her way from door to door handing out brochures for the local Neighbourhood Watch group.

Ms Strauss hopes some of the budget dollars will go towards preventing crime to keep the community safe.

“We need more police officers, I think we probably need more ambulance people too,” she said.

“We do get a bit [of crime], cars being stolen and break-ins.”

She said the Mowbray Neighbourhood Watch receives information on social media about local crime in the area, with some businesses owners not comfortable contacting police directly.

“They can contact me if they need and I will pass things onto the police because sometimes they don’t want to go to the police themselves,” she said.

Ms Strauss is happy about the $46 million already flagged in the budget to improve police information and communications technology.

While he loves Mowbray, Baba Noor also has concerns about law and order in the community.

As he skilfully prepares kebabs in his busy shop he explains that his shop has been broken into multiple times over the past five years.

“Every year we have three or four break-ins and they just take the small coins in the cash register and the other day they put fire under my gas cylinder,” Mr Noor said.

“We should more focus [on] the kids, how we’re going to keep them away from the drugs, this is our future, the kids.”

He hopes the Government will allocate money towards educational programs to keep kids in school and off the street.

For Mowbray’s business owners, customers and residents it is a short wait to find out if they are going to be budget winners or losers.

By April McLennan (Original ABC Article)

ndh_ico