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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5598

Mr BALDWIN (7:25 PM) —I rise to speak on the Export Market Development Grants Amendment Bill 2010. Clearly, the points raised in this bill have a number of positive factors, including the fact that all grants will be extended from 2011-12 to 2015-16. But I also note that the budget has been reduced from $200 million to $150 million over that period of time. In the second reading speech given at the introduction of this bill, Minister Smith, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, said:

The modernisation of the scheme and increased funding has received a very positive response from business; over the last two years the number of applications has increased 21 per cent.

I would put forward the proposition that, given this country’s financial status and the debt that is being incurred by this government, one would be pushing for increased export opportunities. Those export opportunities come from companies, in particular small- to medium-sized businesses and new enterprises, having the financial support and backing of a government to be able to pursue those overseas markets. I look at some of those markets that particularly affect businesses in my area, including small to medium manufacturers. There is the wine industry, which is in long pursuit of opportunities overseas. Tourism is another one. One of the issues is that people keep thinking about large companies as taking the way and the lead forward. While that is true in the sheer volume of dollars, the diversity of the markets means that we need to provide the support to the smaller operators.

The budget has been reduced by $50 million per annum. Given that this government has had the ability over the past couple of years to just hand out cash without any detailed return back to the government, I would have thought that the cutting of $50 million per year was relatively small change for the benefit that would be achieved. Other points in this bill include reducing the number of grants available for an individual recipient, other than an approved body or an approved joint venture, from eight to seven. It is amazing that that was actually put in 2003. As I read through the Export Market Development Grants Bill 2003 I saw that this is exactly the same measure. Other measures include: reducing the maximum grant from $200,000 to $150,000—again, that was in the 2003 bill; capping intellectual property registration expenses at $50,000 per application; increasing the minimum expenses threshold from $10,000 to $20,000; increasing the income limit for members of approved joint ventures/consortia from $30 million to $50 million; removing approved trading houses as an eligible special approval applicant category; reinstating disqualifying conviction provisions in the act that were unintentionally removed when the Criminal Code Amendment (Theft, Fraud, Bribery and Related Offences) Act 2000 rules replaced an earlier act disqualifying conviction provisions; enabling Austrade to impose conditions on the accreditation of EMDG consultants; and amending the ‘form and manner’ requirements and claim lodgement deadlines for applications submitted by accredited EMDG consultants.

This year we are seeing the World Trade Fair being held in Shanghai. There will be a number of new businesses that will seek this as a forum to go forward and promote and push in that emerging and growing market in China, and they need the support of a government. I say to the government as it goes through this bill to look at what it can do to go back to the funding that has been in place for the last two years, that is, the $200 million per annum, because of the direct benefits—as shown and as quoted by the minister in his speech—that have increased the number of applications by 21 per cent.

The debate on this bill will continue tomorrow. I will not be able to continue my comments tomorrow as I will be attending the funeral of Sapper Jacob Moerland. With that I will close my statements and maybe at some time in the future I will have time to add to these comments.

Debate interrupted.