Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 1977

Senator ELSTOB —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. According to a survey by the Australian Trade Commission, as reported in the Australian Financial Review of 16 March, the great majority of potential Australian exporters admit to insufficient marketing and financial expertise to sell abroad, and less than one-fifth have bothered to apply for export market development grants. Will the Minister outline the initiatives taken by the Government to get Australian products on to world markets? What further action may be necessary to ensure that potential exporters seek out and obtain the necessary expertise?

Senator BUTTON —I will have a go at outlining the initiatives taken by the Government in respect of export markets for Australian products, but let me say that my view is that there is a limitation on the role of government in these matters. The problem results from many years-in fact, decades-of encouragement of manufacturing industry in this country under high protective barriers, manufacturing for the domestic market only, and a lack of experience and general expertise, particularly in marketing. If I may be anecdotal for a moment, I discussed this matter in January this year with some of our Japanese ministerial visitors who made the point, I do not think in any derogatory sense, that Australians are not good marketers in international terms. I am sure I am being generous in interpreting what was said in that way.

The Government has taken a range of initiatives to try to increase Australia's exports of manufactures and services. The Australian Trade Commission, Austrade, established in January 1986, has integrated a broad range of trade and trade support functions into one entity, as distinct from the numerous entities that existed before. Assistance for export industries in the financial year 1986-87 is estimated at $243.4m, which includes $92m for the export market development grants scheme. There are also special schemes in relation to particular countries. There is a high technology exporters scheme, and a new exporters scheme has been set up to assist general exports as well. Last year $2m was allocated to a national export drive aimed at improving export investment, production and marketing. Austrade is also developing some specifically directed assistance for the promotion of particular products into selected markets. Those plans, which I referred to a minute ago, include the China plan and the Japan marketing strategy.

There is also a Cabinet sub-committee which reviews issues of domestic policy related to trade competitiveness. It has examined a number of issues relative to our competitiveness in international markets. These market strategies involved in some ways a targeted approach, but nonetheless the point of Senator Elstob's question remains: The majority of exporters or potential exporters are inexperienced at marketing their products overseas. That is a legacy from the past from which this country suffers, and I think it is very much related to managerial expertise. A whole generation of new managers is developing in this country, particularly in small and high technology companies. Right from the beginning those people have seen the world, as distinct from the domestic market, as their market-place. Those companies will grow and have much greater opportunities and much better capacity to take advantage of opportunities in export markets into the future. None of these things, which as I said are the result of decades of neglect, can be changed overnight. However, I think that the signs are encouraging that change is taking place.