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Wednesday, 6 May 1987
Page: 2393

Senator COLEMAN —My question, which is directed to the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, follows comments or criticisms made by the Opposition earlier this week. What measures has the Government taken to deliver information and advisory services to business in the manufacturing and service industries? Is any special attention paid to small businesses which need assistance to grow and export or is, as the Opposition claims, Commonwealth Government assistance to industry mainly targeted at larger firms?

Senator BUTTON —I do not know the allegations to which Senator Coleman is referring, but I have no doubt that they were made. The Commonwealth Government has implemented a range of measures to assist the development of world competitive manufacturing and service firms. Anybody who is in touch with Australian industry knows that. More recently, the Government has launched, in conjunction with State governments, a nationwide program to provide information and advice to industry. This program is known as the national industry extension service. The very important point to make about that advisory service, targeted at small to medium sized firms, is that for the first time in the history of this Commonwealth it is a co-operative effort between State and Federal governments in the provision of advisory services to industry. That service has now been launched in all States as a one-stop shop providing advice to businesses on product innovation and development, management systems, process technology, design and quality. Firms can be assisted by advisers or, more particularly, referred to private sector consultants.

It is expected that the businesses most using NIES will be in the small business sector and, in some cases, medium sized firms. The Government's entire range of support and incentive programs is available through that service to small business. It is often the smaller enterprises which are innovative and able to secure a niche in specialist markets overseas. Special priority has been attached to assisting small businesses to become world class operations, capable of competing effectively in Australian and overseas markets. Each State, in addition to NIES, operates a small business corporation which can work in conjunction with NIES and take on referrals of small businesses which are in need of start-up and other advice peculiar to small enterprise needs. NIES business offices also link into Austrade services and export assistance measures. The new exporters scheme came into effect last year to help introduce smaller firms to export markets.