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
Thursday, 30 September 1993
Page: 1469

Senator FAULKNER (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (10.18 a.m.) —I table the explanatory memorandum and move:

  That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

  Leave granted.

  The speech read as follows

Mr President, this bill amends the Export Market Development Grants Act 1974 to implement the amendment announced by the government on 24 June 1992 to exclude from eligibility claimants with criminal convictions under the corporations law or in respect of serious fraud, and certain claimants under schemes of arrangement. The bill provides also for firms to claim half yearly in the early stages of overseas marketing, and makes a number of `technical' amendments which protect the scheme's integrity and administrative efficiency.

The payment of grants to persons with criminal convictions under the corporations law or in respect of serious fraud is currently possible under the scheme. It is considered that the integrity of the scheme is at risk where it allows convicted persons access to public funds. The bill does not prevent persons with minor convictions from obtaining grants, only those who have been convicted of more serious offences under the corporations law, or in respect of fraud. For example, a company director who failed to lodge a company return by the appointed time, is not excluded from the scheme. Whilst a criminal offence, this conviction, in isolation, does not assault the scheme;s integrity in any serious way, and this display of flexibility is seen as preserving the underlying open access nature of the scheme.

Further, it is considered that payment of grants to business operations with very low viability, and consequently low probability to any future benefit from export promotional expenditure, is not within the spirit of the scheme's intent. Although on occasions an insolvent claimant may eventually trade on to become a viable operation, this generally is not the case, and the legal and practical difficulties associated with assessing potential viability are considerable. Also, the scheme is essentially open access and does not attempt to determine this viability on the basis of value judgments.

Mr President, half yearly claims lodgement is seen as a very practical method of assisting exporters' cash flow in the early stages of overseas market development. The scheme has operated very successfully for nineteen years, with the only significant criticism being the delay between incurring expenditure by the exporter, and the payment of the grant. This bill provides for earlier payment of grants based on the provision to lodge half yearly claims in respect of exporters' first three full grant years.

A great strength of the scheme is the freedom it affords exporters to make judgements as to the activities they wish to pursue, and the markets they wish to target. This premise, and the need for containment of administrative cost, means that some delay in payment is inevitable. Half yearly claims lodgement, however, provides the framework which could double the frequency of payments without altering the essential parameters of the scheme.

This bill implements also a number of `technical' amendments to the act. These amendments are essentially administrative and are required to clarify the established intention of the legislation, or assist with the tightening of ongoing risk management.

I commend this bill to honourable senators.

  Debate (on motion by Senator Reid) adjourned.