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Tuesday, 24 November 1998
Page: 559

Mr LLOYD (10:31 PM) —Tonight I briefly want to commend to the House a very important government initiative that was held on the Central Coast in my electorate last Thursday, 19 November. It was the Central Coast Online Australia Regional Summit. This summit is one of a number that are being held around Australia at the instigation of the federal government. It was a very exciting and well attended summit.

I had the honour of opening that summit last Thursday. There were over 150 small business people from all over the Central Coast who attended that one-day seminar. It gave an opportunity for small business to look at the business potential of the Internet, e-commerce and the potential that is there for small businesses. A lot of small businesses, particularly in regional areas, do not realise the advantages that are available to them through marketing on the Internet.

The Internet is one of the new electronic media that is exploding all over the world. Every single day there are literally hundreds more Australians in their homes and in their businesses linking to the Internet which provides them with ready access to a wealth of information. What that does is open up whole new business opportunities for small businesses that may not have been able to normally compete with larger companies. Particularly in regional areas, because of the tyranny of distance and because of the competitive nature of larger companies, many of these small businesses could not compete effectively on tendering processes for orders.

But, with the Internet, if a small business person has, say, a hat shop in one of their regional towns and their market takes in that regional town, that is the limit of their market. This was an example that was raised at the summit. One woman was very concerned that people were now starting to order directly on the Internet. This meant that they did not need to come into her shop, and her business was falling. Once she was shown the opportunities, instead of having a small market around a regional town, this small business lady had market opportunities all around Australia because she could then market on the Internet, order directly from the suppliers and have that order delivered into someone's home. People would say, `Yes, you can do that from all over the world.'

But one of the advantages is that people like to know the businesses they deal with. They like to have confidence in the businesses they deal with. That is one of the advantages that you can have if you are a locally based company on the Internet. People are still concerned and are a bit loath to order products from overseas from companies that they have never heard of before—they are not sure of whether the order is going to get through; in fact, they may be concerned about giving their credit card number over the Internet—whereas if they are dealing with an established company in a region that they know—a company they may be aware of, somebody that they can contact in the event of problems—it gives them credibility and it gives them a market advantage.

As I said, this regional summit was well attended by about 150 people. Many of the comments I had from the small business people involved were that it was one of the best conferences, one of the best summits, that they have ever attended. It is good to see that the government is coming to terms with and grasping the opportunities of the Internet and of e-commerce and allowing businesses to take advantage of them.

This Central Coast Online Australia Regional Summit was organised by the Central Coast Regional Development Corporation. I think it was only the third one of these summits that have been held throughout Australia. I have to commend the Central Coast Regional Development Corporation for the excellent way they organised it. In particular I thank Kim Schofield-Kelly, Wendy Grimston, Vanessa Steer and their chief executive officer, Eve Robinson, for the excellent job they did.

In the few seconds that I have left, I would like to congratulate my neighbours, Paul and Kate Turner, on the arrival of a healthy, bouncy baby boy today. Mother and baby are doing well, and I think father will recover shortly.