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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29431

Mr VAILE (Minister for Trade) (10:30 AM) —I will wrap up the debate on the Export Market Development Grants Amendment Bill 2004 in the Main Committee. I would like to thank members from both sides for their contributions. It goes without saying that the EMDG Scheme has been a very successful scheme and continues to be so. It is certainly supported wholeheartedly by the government. We always should be vigilant in looking for new and improved ways of delivering assistance, particularly to new entrants into the export marketing regime. Each year, the federal government commits $150.4 million to help several thousand small and medium sized businesses develop sustainable export markets, through the assistance given under the Export Market Development Grants Scheme. The EMDG Scheme is extremely popular within the exporter community and is consistently hailed as a benchmark of effectiveness in terms of government industry support programs.

The coalition government do not believe that EMDG funds should be paid to persons whose behaviour is inconsistent with accepted community standards of commercial and personal propriety. We have a duty to the taxpayers who fund the EMDG Scheme to ensure that grants are not paid to persons who do not meet these standards. The Export Market Development Grants Amendment Bill 2004 ensures that we fulfil this obligation by providing that grants are not payable where the applicant or the applicant's associates are deemed by Austrade to be not fit and proper persons to receive a grant. Austrade's power to apply this provision will of course be exercised within an appropriate framework. Austrade will only be able to make these decisions with reference to ministerial guidelines, and affected applicants will have the right to appeal Austrade's decision. The consent of an applicant or his or her associates will be required prior to Austrade undertaking criminal or other relevant checks. Austrade will only be able to apply this new provision to applications received from 1 July 2004 onwards.

The bill contains important amendments to the EMDG Act 1997. It will ensure that the export market development grants funding is not provided to individuals or businesses that do not merit government recognition or taxpayer support and that it remains focused on cultivating small and emerging exporters—that is, those businesses most deserving of taxpayer-funded support. In conclusion, this is a refinement to the act and we believe it is worth while supporting it to make sure we properly target the assistance that is being funded by taxpayers. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that the bill be reported to the House without amendment.