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Wednesday, 19 June 1996
Page: 1837

Senator BROWNHILL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy)(4.01 p.m.) —Could I thank all those who participated in the debate—Senator Cook, Senator Spindler, Senator Evans, Senator Cooney, Senator Margetts and Senator Schacht. I would like to respond by making some remarks about issues raised by senators in that second reading debate.

Firstly, Senator Cook raised concerns expressed by industry to the Senate committee on the potential for the bill to lead to increased red tape. The government certainly does not intend this to be the case. The Senate noted Austrade, the agency responsible for the administration of the EMDG, is working with industry to ensure that this will not be the case. For example, the draft 10-page document, which the senator referred to, would replace similar existing paperwork, which was actually nine pages, rather than be a big piece of additional paperwork.

Secondly, both Senator Spindler and Senator Margetts made comments on the grants entry test. I would like to make the following points with regard to that. Regarding some of Senator Spindler's concerns, Austrade operates an efficient counselling and referral system for exporters. The grants entry test and the registration will enhance Austrade's ability to provide these services and give Austrade a greater opportunity to support the export development of Australian companies. All grants applicants have access to those services.

Thirdly, this test does not alter the fundamental open access nature of the scheme. The general principles that anyone can apply, that the number of grants are not limited and that every claimant who meets the eligibility criteria receives a grant still apply. The bill will not enable Austrade as administrators to specify or limit the number of grants to be made. Decisions about whether claimants pass the test may be subject to review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Austrade is actually projecting an increase in the number of first time claimants who will receive a grant next year. Also, Senator Cook suggested that this government has not consulted with industry. I bring it to the attention of the chamber that both the previous government and Austrade consulted extensively on this bill, which has been in circulation for over 12 months.

Finally, as noted by senators, the test itself may be disallowed by the parliament if it considers it to be inappropriate. Austrade will be developing clear and appealable rules for the tests, and this will be done in consultation with industry. As senators noted, discretion will be required to ensure that companies, particularly the SMEs, are not disadvantaged by rules which cannot take account of individual industry needs. The government does not agree to the opposition's amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.