A recipient of one of the state government's small business hardship grants says the names of the more than 13,000 successful applicants should be publicly disclosed, despite advice from a senior bureaucrat that it would be best if the information was kept under wraps.
The government's decision has been questioned by Labor and the Greens, as well as advocates for transparency, who say taxpayers have a right to know where the $26 million that went into the program was spent.
Small Business Minister Sarah Courtney fronted the State Parliament's Public Accounts Committee on Monday, where she said the names of the businesses would not be revealed due to the fear that doing so may cause them "undue harm".
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She committed to providing the information to the committee on the condition that it be in confidence.
But multiple businesses in receipt of the grants have voiced their support for the public disclosure of all the successful applicants.
One of them is Adrian Barrett, who owns events company Eight Oh Eight.
"I want to know where the money went just as much as everyone else," he said.
Mr Barrett received a $4000 hardship grant, after initially missing out.
"It took me months of fighting to get it after being told no," he said. "We went through two review processes and then I had to use media attention to get someone at State Growth to actually manually review [my application]."
"The process itself was more mentally stressful, and other processes, rather than being worried about whether or not people know we got given $4000. To me, it's more of a reason that [the government] don't want people to pick it apart."
Gary Hayes, who manages Aspire Adventure Equipment on York Street, also received a hardship grant, something he said he wasn't embarrassed to admit.
Mr Hayes said he hadn't considered whether or not the grant recipients should be released publicly but conceded "it's government money so it should be visible for people to see".
I want to know where the money went just as much as everyone else.Adrian Barrett, grant recipient
Business leaders, including Ian Jones, the president of the Burnie Chamber of Commerce, have backed the move to keep private the details of who received the grants.
"In one way, I'm fine for that information to be shared internally with the other politicians so that can be verified or checked out," he said. "But a lot of those grants went to very small businesses."
"We have a very high percentage of very, very small businesses here on the North-West Coast. And so that would be really putting almost personal information out into the public domain.
"And I wouldn't be able to support that."
State Growth Department secretary Kim Evans told ABC Radio he had been the one to advise the government not to release the information.
"I absolutely welcome transparency and scrutiny," he said. "But we don't believe ... that it is in the public interest to have all of those details released publicly so that people can scrutinise who's in distress [and] who's not."
Opposition Leader Rebecca White said there was no shame in a struggling business receiving government support but added that transparency around taxpayer dollars was vital.
"Unfortunately we've seen in Canberra, where the federal Liberal government has been called out for 'sports rorts', where they've allocated funding to different electorates and they've had an Excel spreadsheet colour-coded about where that money should go," she said.
"We're not saying the same has happened here but ... the government needs to be upfront about where this money has been distributed so we can have confidence in the process."
Ms Courtney said State Growth had given the government "clear advice". "Anything that would further exacerbate the hardship of these businesses, either the mental toll or having competitive information available to others in their market, it's advised that it's not appropriate to have this information disclosed," she said.
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