Monday, 29 February 2016
Trade Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2016; Second Reading
It is a great honour to rise to speak on the Trade Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2016. We live in a world that is more connected than ever before. We live in a world that is very much defined by globalisation, and the great challenge for us as a country is to be brave enough and bold enough to think of ourselves not as a marketplace of 23 million Australians but as a marketplace that has access to all global citizens, and particularly to the billion people who are coming into the middle class in our north, in Asia. It is a very difficult thing to comprehend, as a country of 23 million people, what a billion people looks like. As our neighbours in our north move into the middle class, they will increasingly want to buy not only our resources, food and fibre but particularly our services, our products and our ideas, which really are changing the world for the better. This represents an amazing moment in history—an amazing opportunity for us to seize the opportunities of globalisation by selling our products, our businesses, our services and our ideas into that global marketplace, to those billion people coming into the middle class to our north.
We have managed to unlock this incredible opportunity. We have managed to give ourselves a seat at the table, predominantly through the free trade agreements secured by this coalition government and particularly the former Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb. He has done an incredible job at giving us access into the Korean marketplace, the Japanese marketplace and, particularly, the Chinese marketplace that no other country on earth has, and certainly no other Western country has, particularly on the service side of the economy, whether that is in health care or education or legal services or financial services. It is an amazing opportunity, should our country be brave enough, be bold enough to seize this moment, to seize that opportunity, to sell our products into the Asian marketplace, which will drive our future prosperity as a country for decades to come and, ultimately, ensure that we can hand over to the next generation of Australians a country that has more opportunity, not less, a country that has increasing job opportunities and rising living standards. It is this growth in our region that will drive our future prosperity. I want to commend the former Minister for Trade and Investment on achieving this seat at the table. But, of course, it is then up to us to seize that moment and to fully utilise these free trade agreements.
The Export Market Development Grants scheme is a pivotal way that Australian businesses can fully utilise the opportunity that presents itself when it comes to exporting to a global marketplace. The Export Market Development Grants scheme is a government financial assistance program which has helped grow and will continue to expand our great export industry. The EMDG scheme provides significant marketing support through reimbursing eligible export promotional expenditure for Australian small and medium sized businesses that are aiming to begin exporting or to multiply their exports. What exporter does not aspire to do that? Eligible exporters can access up to eight grants, and these grants do not need to be in consecutive years. Exporters can select the years they access the scheme to maximise its benefits. The premise of the scheme and accompanying framework recognise that developing export markets takes time. For the first two years, applicants can combine expenses into a single claim, and exporters do not need to satisfy an export performance test until their third year in the scheme.
The then Minister for Trade and Investment, the Honourable Andrew Robb, when introducing this bill to the parliament, proposed that the EMDG scheme might indeed be one of the most successful programs that the Australian government has known. It has had bipartisan support since 1974—an incredible thing in this place—and is particularly extolled by the small business sector. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am not sure what you were doing in 1974, I am not sure what members opposite were doing in 1974, but I am sure it was your heyday.