The minister for small business has responded to criticism after Gunnedah's drought-affected businesses breakfast, saying at least he was on the ground gaining "critical insight" into how the drought was affecting businesses.
The response comes after opposition spokesperson Daniel Mookhey said Damien Tudehope "should immediately apologise" for calling Gunnedah business owners "disgruntled" when they were not satisfied with the breakfast event.
"I acknowledge some members of the business community were unsatisfied that I could not provide an immediate response to some of the concerns raised, however the intention behind visiting Gunnedah was to gain critical insight into the unique challenges that the community faces," Mr Tudehope said.
"It is disappointing that Mr Mookhey would seek to exploit the difficulties faced by small businesses in drought-affected regional NSW for political mileage."
Mr Mookhey had said the minister had insulted the business owners.
"Imagine how these small businesses must feel. They voice their opinion and the minister insults them ... [He] should know better than to target small businesses battling a severe drought," he said.
Mr Tudehope said the only way to help those struggling through the drought was to listen to their needs.
"We need to consider more ways to help ease the burden of drought on our regional businesses, as well as farmers, as their economic wellbeing is closely intertwined and the only way to do this is to go out there and talk to regional communities doing it tough," he said.
"The purpose of my [visits to regional towns] is to hear what business owners have to say and to then take that feedback back to my colleagues in parliament.
"Small businesses are the backbone of our regional communities and this government is committed to helping them endure the impacts of this drought."
Mr Tudehope commented on this in parliamentary Question Time, calling them "a small group of disgruntled small businesses".
However, Mrs Dolbel was pleased that her opinion had been heard, telling the NVI it was good to know "[it] has brought Gunnedah's small businesses to the forefront of discussions at parliament".