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Monday, 29 August 1994
Page: 515


Senator BROWNHILL (Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia) (6.18 p.m.) —I want to reiterate where we are up to on the Export Market Development Grants Amendment Bill. The thrust of this bill is to extend the period of consideration of approved joint venture consortiums and approved trading house applications from 30 to 60 days; to limit the life of the approved joint venture consortiums to three years, with a discretion to extend the approval for subsequent three-year periods; to limit the maximum number of grants payable to any approved joint venture consortium, limiting grants payable to any AJVC to five; and to provide for ongoing review of the AJVC and the ATH, approved trading houses. It will tie the overseas visit allowance more directly to specific promotional activity and provide the power to establish an accreditation mechanism for the export market development grants consultants.

  I repeat: this is probably one of the most amended acts ever to come before this chamber. Since 1988 there have been eight amendments, including this one. It is probably no coincidence that this amendment follows hard on the heels of the Australian National Audit Office efficiency audit review into the effectiveness of the export market development grants scheme. That review revealed a number of deficiencies in the payment of grants to eligible applicants.

  Clearly, having regard to the consistent number of amendments since 1988, the parent legislation is in need of major surgery or being dismantled entirely and a completely new act developed in consultation with, firstly, its client base and, secondly, instrumentalities such as the ANAO, to ensure that such a new act is not subject to a regime of annual amendments. It would be better for everyone if such legislation was very clear and concise all the time.

  However, the National Party of Australia supports the intention embodied in the bill before us to provide a system of accreditation for consultants engaged by the private sector exporters and export businesses to assist in the preparation of their grant applications. Hopefully, this initiative will accelerate the backlog of claims that I understand currently exists.

  The intention foreshadowed in this bill to more tightly focus on actual promotional activities overseas is also welcome. But again it must be said that this tightening up process is probably long overdue because, patently, grants have previously been made using wide criteria which are obviously inappropriate. I support the bill. I am quite sure, as Senator Hill started off by saying, that this bill will get a speedy passage through this chamber.