On The Campaign Trail today, opposition to free food for school children gets Berry fired up, another rego cut from the Liberals and Coe quizzed for questioning the cost of COVID closures.
- Liberals pledge $5,000 small business grants
- “Minimising risk for the sake of minimising risk” absurd, says Coe
- Rego reduction redux
- $3 million flight fund
Students at five public schools will receive free breakfast and lunch three days a week under a Labor pilot program aimed at boosting engagement with students to make sure no one is going hungry.
The five schools have not been chosen but will be selected on the basis of need. The trial is expected to cost around $700,000.
The press conference announcing the initiative took a turn when Education Minister Yvette Berry delivered an impassioned clap back at comments by Liberals candidate Candice Burch.
On her Facebook, Ms Burch wrote: “our school reading and mathematics results are going backwards, and yet instead of figuring out how to give our kids a better education, ACT Labor wants to give free lunch!”
Another Liberals candidate Ignatius Rozario commented: “kids go to school to learn not for free lunch”, prompting a passionate response from the Education Minister.
“That is disgusting,” Ms Berry said.
“All the research shows that when a young person has a full stomach their education will improve. Those kinds of comments show that they just simply do not care about people in our community who are doing it tough, who need a hand up, without the stigmatisation placed on it.”
An extra 25 full-time youth and social workers will also be hired at a cost of $7.4 million if Labor is re-elected, Ms Berry said.
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Liberals pledge $5,000 small business grants
Small businesses will be able to apply for grants of up to $5,000 to help them recover from the pandemic under a plan announced today by Liberal leader Alistair Coe.
The total fund is worth $3 million but there is room to expand it.
Outdoor space will also be deregulated for one year to allow hospitality businesses to expand capacity and use the space directly in front of their shop.
This could allow some businesses to increase their customer size by 10 to 20 per cent, Liberal business spokesperson Andrew Wall said.
“Minimising risk for the sake of minimising risk” absurd, says Coe
Liberals leader Alistair Coe has come under fire for telling an election forum that “this idea of minimising risk for the sake of minimising risk is absurd” as he appeared to criticise ACT Government COVID-19 restrictions on businesses.
The Liberals have consistently been calling for the quicker easing of restrictions for small businesses, which are bearing the brunt of the pandemic. Labor has criticised the opposition for refusing to listen to the health advice in regards to easing restrictions.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman has opened some sections of the economy slower than others, saying that the accumulative risk of eased restrictions must be managed appropriately.
When Mr Coe was asked to elaborate on his comments by journalists at today’s press conference, he repeated that the Liberals would follow the evidence and experts and do everything they can to support businesses.
He did not directly address questions about whether he supported the actions of Dr Coleman throughout the pandemic or what actions he would have taken to support businesses in lieu of the current health advice.
“The Canberra Liberals support a reasonable risk-based approach to dealing with the pandemic,” Mr Coe said. “We want to lower the cost of living, we want to support businesses and we want to make sure that we have tailored solutions that work for our economy and our businesses.”
ACT Election Round-Up
Rego reduction redux
The Liberals have made their third rego cut announcement, this time for tradies who will receive a $150 yearly rego reduction.
They estimate the $21 million package will cut the cost of work ute registration by between $116 and $150 a year. This builds on their previous commitments to cut the cost of car registration and business vehicle registrations.
$3 million flight fund
ACT Labor will spend $3 million over the next four years in tourism marketing partnerships in a bid to attract more domestic flights to Canberra.
The fund comes off the back of Alliance Airlines announcing it will expand into the Canberra market and introduce flights from the capital to the Sunshine Coast and Cairnes from 23 October.
Canberra Airport and Tourism Australia will partner with the fund to bring more low-cost airlines to Canberra and expand services from the ACT.
Hobart is the next destination on the list after Canberrans have been allowed back into South Australia and Queensland as restrictions have eased.
“In the medium term, the fund will be used to target the re-establishment of direct flights between Canberra and New Zealand if a travel bubble is created with Australia”, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said.