Chester backs SBTA

A STRONG Sale Business and Tourism Association could result in local small business have more say in planning decisions, according to the Nationals incumbent Gippsland MHR Darren Chester.

Mr Chester met with the SBTA on Tuesday to discuss the Coalition’s small business policy ahead of Saturday’s Federal election. SBTA board member Alan Lewis said it was important small business had their voices heard.

“It’s alright for the government having a small business policy and all that, but the reality is, that all the planning decisions, the mechanisms for groups like the Sale Business (and Tourism) Association to actually engage and get their views heard, is very limited, and particularly in the planning of Gippsland,” he said.

“One of the frustrations, that I find, and people who are trying to get their voice heard, and I suppose we represent Sale Business and Tourism, is really, how do you communicate on a regional level?”

Mr Chester said while the VECCI Small Business is Too Big to Ignore campaign had been successful in raising awareness of small business, there was a need for local business and tourism associations to build towards being the peak body of business to local councils.

“Once you get yourself into the position where they see you as the peak group on business questions, they will embrace you and say what has the SBTA said about this issue,” he said.

“It’s very handy for a federal or state politician or local councillor to say I’ve consulted with the peak body in whatever field it might be, and you might be the peak body in Sale, so every time there is an issue, we need to consult with you.

“The challenge is to build the status of the organisation to the stage where people say that is the representative group in Sale.

“I see the SBTA having a very strong local role and the message has got to get out amongst the business sector, that there is strength in numbers, you should join your local business association and have some input rather than sit back and complain about it.

“And that’s where the structure follows through, you have your peak body at a regional level you feed information into.”

Mr Chester said he believed local procurement could be improved in Gippsland.

“There’s 11,000 small businesses in the electorate, we’re very conscious of it,” he said.

“The day we were elected, we campaigned to encourage people to put locals first and shop locally. People say why do you do it, well they’re local jobs.

“If you spend your money locally, your money goes around the community. Too many of our business owners go outside the community to shop as well. I mean, there are local business owners who don’t use the local shops.

“Go to the locals, and then discover this could be just as good, that’s part of the answer.”