Monday, 29 February 2016
Trade Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2016; Second Reading
That the two sides of politics can come together since 1974 in this place to support a piece of public policy is a truly remarkable thing, and I think it shows the virtues of this program—one that has stood the test of time and will continue to drive future prosperity for the Australian economy and generations to come.
At the core of this bill is an amendment to the definition of a grant year, which is currently up to 30 June 2016. In effect, the scheme will be made evergreen so that it may continue beyond that date. This bill will, in fact, remove the need for a four-yearly reauthorisation review, which can create uncertainty for those very claimant exporters it seeks to serve. As the former trade minister pointed out, given that it has enjoyed more than 40 years of bipartisan support, there is little to be gained by subjecting the scheme to prescribe four-yearly sunset provisions—surely a common sense approach to this policy.
The reach and the impact of the scheme are striking. For the 2013-14 grant year, paid in the 2014-15 financial year, more than 3,100 recipients from around Australia received over $141 million in grant payments. The average grant was a pretty significant $44,270. Fifteen per cent of recipients were from rural and regional areas—a great achievement for our rural and regional enterprises and exporters. Sixty-four per cent of recipients were from service industries, including 14 per cent from education and culture, 11.8 per cent from professional scientific and technical services, 11.3 per cent from ICT services and 10.6 per cent from tourism and related industries. I think we can expect those numbers to grow in the decades to come. The mining boom and the agriculture boom has been a great thing for our country—my family are farmers, my brothers work in the coal mines; it has served our country well. As our country continues to transition and diversify its economy post the mining boom, this will really drive that future job creation for the next generation of Australians—those high-skilled, high-paying jobs in the service industry. This represents an incredible opportunity. This piece of policy has really driven their ability to access that global marketplace to sell our services across the globe.
For the 31 per cent that are from the manufacturing industries, I think often we forget the ability of Australian manufacturers to export to the globe. To give you a great local example, Packer Leather in my electorate is a 100-year-old manufacturing firm. It manufactures the leather that goes into Kookaburra cricket balls, the kangaroo leather that goes into Nike and Adidas shoes—it is in the RM Williams boots that I am wearing today. This is an incredible textile manufacturer that is exporting into the Chinese marketplace. To think that Australian manufacturers cannot compete on the global stage is, seriously, to talk ourselves down and miss the opportunity that is presenting itself. Seventy-two per cent of recipients were small exporters reporting annual income of $5 million or less. This is a great opportunity for our small and medium enterprises who are making a big difference on the global stage.
The benefits and opportunities really do hit home. They are reverberating through local economies and communities such as mine. In my own electorate, we have seen four local businesses that have recently been awarded EMDG grants. There is Akwa-Worx Pty Ltd, a water waste and treatment enterprise which, again, is punching above its weight on the global stage. There are some incredible businesses in the safety, performance and management of pole assets that are accessing these grants and selling to the global marketplace. We are seeing local, internationally renowned workplace training organisations accessing these grants. One that I am particularly excited about is Prolific Designs from Beachmere, a signage expert providing intellectual capital as well as the actual products to a global marketplace. They are making a very significant difference.
In conclusion, I think we stand at a very exciting time in human history, as the Prime Minister likes to say. Globalisation is presenting enormous opportunities, and we should not allow fear to define our response to a changing world. Instead, we should seize those opportunities and the ability to market our businesses, our products, our services, to the global marketplace, particularly the billion people coming into the middle class in our north. The free trade agreements that have been concluded by this government give us a very powerful seat at the table, but, if we are to fully utilise that opportunity, it is good public policy like this one that we are supporting in the House today that will drive our future prosperity. For those reasons, I commend this bill to the House.