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Thursday, 10 October 1985
Page: 1041

Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce)(9.56) —Senator Vigor has discussed this amendment with me and I understand the spirit and thrust of it, but unhappily, having made that concession, I cannot make any further concessions and the Government will be opposing the amendment. The proposed amendment is designed to cover claimants with eligible expenditure not exceeding $10,000 in any year and to introduce a prior approval scheme for these claimants. That is a nice thought, but based on the evaluation of the export market development grants scheme by the Department of Trade it is estimated that there would be some 3,900 claimants in that category. When we add to the large number of claimants there would be the fact that Senator Vigor is also proposing quarterly payments of the claims, we see the size of the administrative problem that would be created, involving an extremely large staff, particularly staff with the skills to evaluate marketing proposals. We would be establishing a very large bureaucratic structure to deal with that. I remind Senator Vigor of the Ferris National Export Marketing Strategy Panel's findings about the performance and success rate of many claimants who would fall, no doubt, within this category.

Having said that, I say on behalf of the Government that we accept that there are some exporters who will be disadvantaged by the $5,000 expenditure requirement-exporters who have considerable export potential and would seem to be deserving of Government support. Amongst the many disadvantaged there will be some in that category. What the Government is in fact saying, I confess, is that we may be disadvantaging a few of those in order to lessen the cost of the scheme, the administrative over-burden which the scheme would involve, if it was amended in accordance with Senator Vigor's amendment, and so on.

Senator Chipp —How do you know it is only a few? How do you know it is not many?

Senator BUTTON —I think on the basis of past performance it is pretty safe to say that there would be less rather than more. I cannot put it any more precisely than that. I think it would be a relatively small percentage on the basis of past performance.

Senator Vigor —Thirty-six per cent of people are in that category.

Senator BUTTON —I always find it inelegant when people interject when I am making a point which is basically in agreement with them. I do not mind it when I am disagreeing with them; I am fair game then. I am trying to say that there is a lot of wisdom in what Senator Vigor is putting-just not enough!

I was going on to say that the National Export Marketing Strategy Panel, chaired by Mr Bill Ferris, recognised this and to cover that point, it recommended the introduction of supplementary export funds. Because the Ferris Panel made such a recommendation and because Senator Vigor has moved this amendment and gone to the trouble to re-elevate the point, my colleague the Minister for Trade (Mr Dawkins) will be requesting the Australian Trade Commission, when it is established and operating as of 1 January next year, to come forward with proposals for export market development schemes tailored specifically to assist small new exporters and exporters of high technology products. I concede that the details of such arrangements would have to be worked out. They would not necessarily be of the detail suggested in Senator Vigor's amendment. I expect that they would be based on the Commission's prior approval of applicants' export promotional plans, and any such scheme would need to be very carefully developed to ensure its cost effectiveness and administrative feasibility. That is an area in respect of which we criticise Senator Vigor's suggestion.

We recognise some merit in Senator Vigor's concern. We do not agree with the specific method that he has devised for trying to meet that concern. The Minister for Trade has asked me to state that he has undertaken to ask the Trade Commission, as soon as it is established, to seek a remedy to this problem. For those reasons, I do not think the Government is in a position to accept this amendment. The cost and the administrative burden would be such that it would run very much contrary to the leaned-down version of the scheme which we are currently advocating.