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Thursday, 5 May 1994
Page: 326


Senator McKIERNAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. Can the minister explain how Australia's international trade and economic security will be assisted by the government's initiatives announced yesterday in the white paper on employment and growth?


Senator McMULLAN —In essence, what the initiatives in the paper say about trade is that we have come a long way but we need to go further. In trade terms, the white paper comes forward in a context in which, over the last decade, we have made enormous strides in expanding and diversifying our economy and our international trade presence. A lot has been done.

  Let us have a look at a few of the statistics. There are hundreds of them. For example, exports of goods and services have grown from 14 per cent of GDP to over 20 per cent and elaborately transformed manufactures have risen from 11 per cent of exports to 21 per cent. There is rapid growth in services exports as well. All those things are pluses, significant advances that have been made in the last decade as a result of the reforms of the government. The statistics cannot adequately portray the growing export culture. We are confident it is taking hold in Australian industry. Having made those strides already, we need to proceed to the next steps. The last thing we can afford to be is complacent.

  The next steps that we have outlined in this successful process of transformation are very practical measures about helping Australian business to get out into the international marketplace and do business. Governments can make it possible; but the trade is done by business going out into the international community, being competitive and being successful.

  There are several key and very important messages and initiatives which have very tangible, practical and measurable benefits. An example is the continuation of the export market development grant for a further five years and its extension to tourism in particular. The EMDG has been a very effective mechanism for getting Australian businesses into export. Typically—and the statistics indicate it—mature exporters will generate in additional exports, 15 to 25 times the grant paid to them. That is, 15 to 25 times the taxpayers' outlays flow in increased exports. Similarly, in the international trade enhancement scheme the multiple is about 18—18 times the funds loaned to exporters will be returned in a net increase in foreign exchange earnings for Australia. These are very valuable financing facilities to companies and are welcomed by the private sector. The scheme has been extended for a further four years.

  We have also had a significant extension of Austrade and the global trade support network so that Australian businesses going out to seek new markets, or to build on the markets they already have, will have the maximum assistance the Australian government is capable of providing particularly, but not only, in this region.

  We have also recognised in the white paper the need to build on the interconnection between developing industry capability to world best practice, which is principally the responsibility of my colleague Senator Cook, and the capture of export opportunities through trade intelligence, export facilitation and trade promotion. I share with Senator Cook the pleasure in and agreement with the announcement made in the white paper—which we both support.

  I have effective involvement in the Ausindustry and EFIC parts of his portfolio and he has effective involvement in the Austrade part of my portfolio, in what the Prime Minister has designated as a collaborative arrangement. Neither of us has taken anything from the other. We will cooperate to make this more effective for Australia. I am sorry that the journalists are looking for the gun fight at OK Corral—they will not find it here.