Dean Andersen with Bill Shorten. Photo Frazer Pearce / The Morning Bulletin
Dean Andersen with Bill Shorten. Photo Frazer Pearce / The Morning Bulletin Frazer Pearce

Signs of life and decline in CBD seen by Shorten on run

AS Bill Shorten jogged around the streets of Rockhampton's CBD and along the banks of the Fitzroy River early Thursday, he noticed a few telltale signs that told of Rocky's situation.

The Federal Opposition leader observed a business precinct showing the wear and tear of an economic downturn.

"It's almost like a noxious weed; the for sale signs, the for rent signs of small business shops," Mr Shorten said as he sipped on a cup of tea at Cafe Calma in East St.

"There were more here than last time I was here (in August 2013). "You can also see the sale signs outside the breakfast shops; the emphasis on value.

"People are hunting value today more than ever.

"The other things I look at when I visit (towns and cities) is how many money lenders and tattoo parlours you have got as opposed to book shops.''

But he also noted signs of strength and resilience.

"I spent most of my adult life visiting country towns with the union and you get to know the signs of (business) health."

He started by looking around the interior of the funky Cafe Calma.

"What's interesting about this café compared to others in town is that they have given it a broader floor space. You see that when you look at the most successful cafes.

"When you look around Rocky, this is still a successful town. You've got a Bunnings, Masters, Harvey Norman..... the point is you have a viable town and you have an artistic life.

"One of the strings to Rocky's bow is that it is also a university town. Diversity is the basis of success.

"When I come to Rocky I see potential for success not a town on a spiral down.

"You've got a good airport and good airports are the links of the 21st century."

When asked about what he could do to support small business struggling due to the mining downturn, he turned to internet sales as a major issue that had to be addressed - but he didn't have a solution, yet.

"You look at local sporting goods shop where they're traditionally dependent on selling your kids their sporting gear,'' he said.

"Parents can go online now and not just get it cheaper, but 30 and 40% cheaper. So there is a whole lot of work to be done on how the internet is disrupting business."

But he said introducing a tax for online sales was not the answer.

"When we first looked at it in government it was going to cost more to collect than to raise.

"That's one dilemma. Until we get a satisfactory answer why would you bring in a tax that would cost more to collect than raise?

"But it is an issue and how it affects the business model.

"Other challenges for small business are retail tenancy, penalty rates on weekends, but I think it's more complex than that.''

He spoke about a range of other issues (see stories these pages) before leaving to catch a flight.

While he was short on solutions to the challenges facing small business, he challenged Bully readers to provide a list of the "two, three, four or five things" they believed the city or district needed to go ahead.

"The role of politics is to help navigate to the next destination, get agreement and work out how to navigate there, not to run people's lives or abandon them,'' he said.

Your say

Send your list of priority projects for Bill Shorten to The Editor, The Morning Bulletin, PO Box 397, Rockhampton 4700 or online at www.themorning bulletin.com.au



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