ChooseCBR vouchers scheme to press on despite a lukewarm reception

Michael Weaver 15 April 2021 6
Elizabeth Lee

Elizabeth Lee said the scheme ignored Canberra’s large community of multicultural business owners. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT Government will continue with the ChooseCBR voucher scheme’s full rollout despite claims from the Opposition that the scheme has ignored Canberra businesses and had poor take-up by the multicultural business community.

The $500,000 trial went live in December last year and 302 businesses registered in the first week. But it was greeted with a lukewarm response by Canberrans who only downloaded about $65,000 worth of vouchers in the first five days.

Following the trial, the program is being assessed to consider ways to increase accessibility for business owners and customers before a proposed $2 million rollout sometime this year.

The ChooseCBR scheme was designed to encourage consumers to spend money at participating local businesses by offering digital discount vouchers redeemable at participating businesses. It was designed as an economic stimulus measure to support the ACT’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

Minister for Business and Regulation Tara Cheyne has repeatedly defended the scheme, saying it proved to be a great economic boost for business and was being extended in response to community feedback.

“The ChooseCBR trial is having an impact on our local economy. For every $1 of discount claimed, about $6.20 is being injected into the economy,” Ms Cheyne said shortly after the trial.


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However, Shadow Minister for Businesses Leanne Castley said it was no wonder only 336 of Canberra’s 30,000 small businesses had signed up for the trial.

She and Opposition leader Elizabeth Lee also took aim at the scheme for ignoring Canberra business owners from the multicultural community.

“Administration costs were a staggering $123,000 out of a total $500,000 spend, but still the Minister could not explain what, if anything, the government was doing to make sure small businesses run by traders with English as a second language could participate,” said Ms Castley.

“The rebooted scheme will not be a success if such a big group of small businesses cannot understand how to sign up and participate.

“I call on the Minister to explain how the rebooted scheme will be different this time and how she will ensure all of Canberra’s small businesses can participate so no one is left out,” Ms Castley said.

Ms Lee said she wrote to Business Minister Tara Cheyne in December to ask what support was available to ensure businesses run by Canberrans with English as a second language could access the program. Ms Lee said the minister had not responded.

“Unfortunately, many of these business owners had never heard of the ChooseCBR scheme, let alone have any information or support to access the scheme,” said Ms Lee.

“It would have been great to see the program rolled out in a way to ensure ease for all businesses to sign up and get involved.”


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An ACT Government spokesperson said 2,000 local businesses were eligible during the trial and reiterated that the December ChooseCBR trial was to inform the full rollout of the scheme later this year.

The spokesperson added that the Government had engaged with local business organisations and stakeholders in the multicultural community to ensure information reached businesses owned by individuals from non-English speaking backgrounds.

A number of hospitality venues from various cultural backgrounds also registered for the program during the trial.

“The government is currently working on the rollout of the full ChooseCBR program based on what was learned from the trial,” the spokesperson said. “We will work closely with the local business community to ensure more Canberra businesses are on board and the program’s appeal is broadened.

“The ACT Government will continue to work with our multicultural business community to ensure programs and initiatives that support small business are accessible.”


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6 Responses to ChooseCBR vouchers scheme to press on despite a lukewarm reception
Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 6:12 pm 15 Apr 21

It would have been nice if it was advertised. A cheep fb campaign would have been good. We get gov junk mail, it would have been good to put it in that.

Deborah Gale Deborah Gale 7:27 pm 14 Apr 21

The vouchers were limited in the number of businesses they could be used at and how they were rolled out.

Linda Stapleton Linda Stapleton 5:38 pm 14 Apr 21

mmm after the way this bombed last time, I doubt it will be a success this time... sorta like the Canberra qcode app that every store had to have, everyone had to use them or be fined...yep that went so welll...not... seems the ones who organise this have major issues in owrking out what they are doing and if they cant work out what they are doing how do they expect anything they try, to actually work...

Jim Jim Jim Jim 4:52 pm 14 Apr 21

Never heard of it, never saw it. Downloaded Scoopons for a recent trip to Sydney and would definitely have downloaded offers locally as well. Clearly a failed communications campaign to create awareness and get community buy in...

Barry Finch Barry Finch 4:47 pm 14 Apr 21

I would be really happy to get some vouchers. I don't know what happened last time. I didn't know they were being offered. Why is the Opposition not getting on board and doing whatever it can to help make this a success for Canberra business.

Kim Kim 4:33 pm 14 Apr 21

Do the Canberra Liberals do nothing but complain without offering any alternatives. 4 months after the last ACT election where they were again overwhelmingly rejected, they’re still sniping. At least the government is doing something. The program stimulates and supports the ACT’s economy to recover from COVID-19 and is a great boost for business.

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