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Wednesday, 6 June 2001
Page: 27429

Mr IAN MACFARLANE (Minister for Small Business) (5:15 PM) —The EMDG Scheme is a proven success in assisting small business to export and is a key plank in the government's strategy for a robust, internationally competitive economy. The EMDG Scheme complements the government's other efforts to promote Australian trade and exports, to reduce trade barriers and to improve our trade representation around the globe, including in Eastern Europe, where, for the information of the member for Calwell, the Minister for Trade, Mark Vaile, has recently opened a new Austrade post in Romania. A new Austrade post has also been opened in Croatia, and an Austrade mission has been sent to Slovenia.

Each year the EMDG Scheme assists around 3,000 businesses to get into export. These businesses generate $4.5 billion in exports. They employ an estimated 54,000 Australians to fill these export orders, and 21 per cent of these grants go to businesses in rural and regional Australia. Previous speakers have highlighted the benefits of the scheme and given examples of the very broad range of firms, representing all industry sectors, that are building their exports with the assistance of the EMDG Scheme. To give certainty to the industry concerning the future of the scheme, the government publicly committed to the continuation of the scheme in August 2000, soon after receiving the report of the review. The bill before the House delivers on that promise to extend the EMDG Scheme for another five years—as recommended by the Austrade board after its comprehensive review of the scheme in 1999 and 2000—and makes a number of changes to the scheme which will be of great benefit to our small business sector. And I support that.

In conclusion, I note that the EMDG Scheme enjoys broad industry support, as do the amendments to the bill. Rigorous investigation and academic analysis have confirmed that the scheme works and that it is an effective means of encouraging our small and medium enterprises to export. I therefore commend to the House the bill extending and improving the EMDG Scheme.

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.