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Thursday, 6 March 2014
Page: 1884


Mr ROBB (GoldsteinMinister for Trade and Investment) (13:16): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The changes proposed in this bill, the Export Market Development Grants Amendment Bill 2014, deliver on the coalition's pre-election commitment to progressively restore funding to export market development grants starting with an initial $50 million boost.

The export market development grants program provides funding for the partial reimbursement of eligible export marketing expenditure for small and medium enterprise exporters. These grants assist small and medium sized enterprises to enter new export markets and become self-sustaining exporters.

The 2013 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook allocated an additional $50 million over four years. The associated policy changes required to give effect to this provision, as well as some additional administrative enhancements to the scheme, are contained in this bill.

This increased funding of the Export Market Development Grants Scheme is designed to progressively restore the funding to the scheme, which had been cut by $25 million per year by the previous government, and thereby, seek to boost Australia's manufacturing and services export base.

This cut that was witnessed under the previous administration says much about Labor's lack of feel for small business and medium business. It shows that they were more interested in meeting a political objective than in supporting the engine of growth that small and medium business is in this country.

To achieve this objective that we have set, to increase manufacturing and services' export base, the bill increases the maximum number of grants per applicant from seven to eight, and reduces the required expenditure threshold to qualify for a grant from $20,000 to $15,000. Based on the profile of last year's applicants, this will enable hundreds of extra small businesses to benefit from the scheme. Currently the export market development grant does not reimburse the first $5,000 of an eligible claim; this will drop to $2,500—around 85 per cent of export market development grant recipients will receive an extra $2,500 per grant as a result.

To illustrate what this means:

A new business with a unique product that has only had a market overseas and is looking for their first sale and is spending just $15,000 on export promotion will now get a $5,000 grant. Previously they would have received nothing;

An experienced exporter who has received the maximum seven grants in the past, but whose export business had dried up due to the high exchange rate, for example, will now be eligible to apply for an eighth grant to help try and recover those markets now that, say, the exchange rate is improving, of up to $150,000. Previously they would have received nothing.

The improvements the coalition is making will benefit many small business exporters in rural and regional areas. Businesses like:

Wrightcom Australia, exporting agricultural equipment from near Echuca;

Carbon Revolutionfrom Waurn Ponds, exporting premium-priced carbon fibre wheel rims;

Ramler International from Cheltenham, providing seating products to a global customer base that's included the London Olympic Village, US airports and hotels; and

The Angus Society of Australia, promoting beef exports from Armidale in New England

and hundreds more are now eligible for higher grants and more grants than have been provided previously.

It is in line with the coalition's overarching economic objective to remove from centrestage unsustainable government spending, endless and economically damaging rule changes and new taxes, and replace that with robust growth of the private sector, to back our strengths in doing that. Small and medium enterprises are the engine room of the private sector. They are historically the greatest source of innovation in our community. They need to be unshackled from the endless rule changes, the high taxes such as the carbon tax, and they need us, where we can, to give them the assistance to break into new markets. They have not got the infrastructure, they have not got the experience, they have not got the opportunity, they have not got the resources, to go to some of these foreign markets. And to achieve success, to penetrate these markets in an informed way, providing some small measure of assistance has proven enormously successful. I would say to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, this is probably the most successful small business program that we have witnessed over the last 10 or 20 years. This Export Market Development Grants Scheme has been demonstrably successful. It has delivered a massive dividend to the Australian taxpayer. This measure of support gives not only some support. It gives hope. It gives a sense of partnership, in that these people are taking a risk, going out there and risking a lot of their own funds, and they are getting some measure of support from the community. These are elements that are very important if we want to ensure an export-led growth by small businesses, if we want to get trade and investment as a leading edge of sustainable economic growth and sustainable jobs.

The government is seeking to introduce this bill now to address urgently the need to boost Australia's manufacturing and services export base as rapidly as possible and to provide certainty for small businesses as they consider their export marketing plans into the future.

I commend this bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.