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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 2560

Senator GUILFOYLE (Victoria) - I indicate on behalf of the Opposition that we do not oppose these Bills which we shall discuss in a cognate debate. The Export Incentive Grants Bill 1973 seeks to continue these grants until June 1974 and we indicate our acceptance of that provision. However, I would like to make some comments about incentives for exports in general. It is obvious that the share of manufactured goods in the total composition of the Australian economy must be increased. It has been increasing over a period of a few years but to achieve a constant improvement it is necessary to give incentives to and encourage long term planning by manufacturers in the Australian context. The fact that this Bill is simply continuing a measure for a further 12 months is of some concern to us. Exports, in particular manufactured exports, are a vital sector of the Australian economy and, fortunately, are increasingly becoming important to us. However, they require longer term planning and a sustained effort and Government incentive programs in the long term will be beneficial to the whole of the manufacturing sector.

Let us consider the improvement in the export of manufactured goods from Australia over a period of some years, starting perhaps at 1948-49. At that time we were exporting goods to the total value of $ 1,000m of which 5 per cent was in the form of manufactured goods. In 1971-72 the total of exported goods from Australia was valued at $4,7 19m and 20 per cent of this total was in the form of manufactured goods, valued at $945m. In 1972-73 our export total had reached $6,002m with manufactured goods valued at $ 1 , 1 24m. It is interesting to note that in that last year manufactured goods represented only a 19 per cent proportion of total exports compared with a 20 per cent proportion in the year before. However, the figures themselves have improved considerably. Exports of rural goods are increasing tremendously and represent 57 per cent of aggregate exports in recent years. Of course, the new progress of mineral exports shows that some 22 per cent of our exports are now in this form against approximately 20 per cent for manufactured goods.

The long term planning about which I spoke is the important factor. It is fair to say that it is not easy to develop export markets. By consistent effort our manufacturers have been breaking into new markets. They are gradually emerging as exporters to the United States, Japan and Singapore, and these markets were not easy to capture. I would think that the long term incentive that could be provided by some form of Government assistance would be beneficial to the whole of this sector. The fact that new markets need to be developed interests me. We have, as I said, gradually established ourselves as exporters to an increasing range of markets around the world. But the effort that we need to introduce ourselves into new markets requires some sort of Government forward planning and long term assistance, which would be most beneficial.

Australia has been playing an increasing role in world trade and I think as a result of that in international understanding. These things ought to be part of the Government's programs and should have co-operation from all of us. We should tell the Government that this is one area where there is no conflict of interest in the national sense; it is an objective which would be beneficial to all of us. We are at present exporting and we are perhaps in a climate of world demand boom. But let us look to the time when that will change though Australia is geared to adopt export markets as part of our manufacturing capacity. With that change, I think that we would see very different circumstances for our employment opportunities, unless we were able to compete on an export market with other manufacturing countries which have many opportunities for economies of scale which are not always available to us because of our more limited domestic market. Australian manufacturers face not only intensive competition from foreign manufacturers but the separation by a wide distance from foreign markets which increase the costs of freight and shipping and those other things which add up to the difficulty of our perpetuating our export market potential. Compare, for instance, the distance facing an Australian manufacturer with that of a Japanese manufacturer who are both attempting to trade with Singapore. And one can contrast the distance between America and a European market with that between Australia and that market. One must understand that there are invisible costs in our marketing which are not shared by some of the other great manufacturing nations.

The other factor important to Australia is that the export market for manufactured goods could be a more stable form of earning export income than that of the rural sector which faces many fluctuations in world prices, world demand and world supply. For this reason I see the necessity for the Government to continue incentives to the exporters of manufactured goods. It is also important to say about this Bill which has been introduced to continue a measure for one year that an export market cannot be turned on and off abruptly. It takes time to develop the confidence of export markets, the potential for manufacture and to decide that some proportion of a manufacturing program is to go to an export market. A 5-year plan ought to be the minimum in any program that a government introduces. I do not mean that a 5-year plan would be an achievement, but rather that that would be the minimum time scale in which a manufacturer could consider an export market as part of his manufacturing plan. For these reasons I indicate the support of the Opposition for both measures. But I would like to think that Government consideration would be given to a greater time scale for export incentives to enable our great manufacturing sector to realise its full potential and to take a stronger hold on the great export markets of the world.

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