darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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November 21, 2013

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (11:15):  I rise to encourage Gippslanders and in fact all Australians to shop locally and support small businesses in their own communities. As we approach the festive season, I make the point that the best gift you can give a young Gippslanders this Christmas is a chance at getting a job in their own region. Most of us would be aware that by shopping locally or utilising local tradespeople and contractors we help to retain a strong small business sector and help to create jobs and opportunities for young people to have a future in our region.

I fear that we export too many young people from regional Australia into our cities, because the lack of career opportunities in some of those regional towns. It has been very interesting to watch over the past 12 months the focus on supporting local businesses and Australian made products. Throughout this year we have seen initiatives such as the Too Big to Ignore and Shop Small campaigns which have been driven by the Australian small business community to highlight these benefits to a broader national audience. I note that the Prime Minister himself was involved in the launch of the Shop Small campaign in the federal seat of Deakin, where he said:

Every small business is providing a service. Most small business are employing people and small business is at the heart of the creativity which our economy needs.

The average small business person has put his or her life on the line in a way that big business people don’t. The average small business person has a mortgage over his or her house to keep the business going and that’s why small business is a section of our community which deserves particular respect from government and from officialdom.

The Minister for Small Business, Mr Billson, also said:

We’re encouraging people to consider spending some money in a small business to show that this is something that’s valued in our community.

I commend both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Small Business for those comments.

As we approach the festive season—and people do tend to spend more at this time of the year—this is a very important message to get out into the broader community, particularly through Gippslanders. As I say to them, ‘Before you fill up the car and head off to the city to go shopping, take a closer look at what is available in our own community. Our region has an extraordinarily diverse range of businesses which offer a range of services, facilities and retail opportunities, and it is a perfect time to give them a chance to do a deal with you.’ I accept that some people believe they can go to the city and chase down a bargain. But, by the time you factor in the fuel prices and the lack of return service, in the sense that they are not part of your local community, I do not think you actually get a bargain at all.

This is an issue that regional people need to consider in the sense that it is the small business community in our regional towns which we rely on a day-to-day basis. We rely on them to provide support for our sporting and community organisations, and it is a bit hard to expect those small local businesses to support you if you are not prepared to support them during the rest of the year. So I say to the people of Gippsland and throughout regional Australia that before you log onto a website and purchase items from an overseas based company—which does not even pay taxes here in Australia and contributes nothing to the health and wellbeing of our nation—give your local small businesses a chance to do a deal. In most cases, when you purchase something online there is no benefit flowing into your local community. Young people in your community do not get any benefit whatsoever from that. Young people do not get the opportunity to get a part-time job to develop their skills which may well go on to lead to career opportunities for them down the track.

Since being elected I have run a constant campaign called Putting Locals First. It has been something that I have promoted over the past five years. It encourages people to not only shop locally and to use local services but also to take a break in the Gippsland region. As we approach this holiday season, there is a real opportunity for people to get out and explore their own region. Gippsland is one of the greatest regions in Australia. I argue that it is the greatest region in Australia. There is a diverse range of attractions—from the Gippsland Lakes to the mountain alps, to the rivers and streams and the 90-mile beach. There is a whole range of places in Gippsland you can visit. By taking a break in Gippsland—exploring your own region and getting an understanding of the culture and the heritage of our own region—you are also going to help the local economy at the same time.

The message that I am giving to the people of Gippsland this summer is one of supporting small business by buying your presents for the festive season locally. Also, if you do get a chance to take a break, try to take that break in the Gippsland area. If you shop or have a holiday in Gippsland this Christmas, you will be helping to give a young Gippslander a job, and I do not think anybody could ask for a better present than that.

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