Thursday, 17 October 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator Birmingham. How does the government's strong economic management assist exporters financially grow their businesses and grow more jobs, especially for our small- and medium-sized enterprises?
I thank Senator Sinodinos for his question, which I may boldly predict could well be his last question in this place. In doing so, I thank Senator Sinodinos for his service to the Senate and to our nation and congratulate him on his valedictory speech last night. It was a valedictory speech that epitomised Senator Sinodinos's depth, substance, wisdom and sense of vision. In it he outlined many great policy challenges for our nation and ways in which they should be tackled. He demonstrated his policy drive in areas such as space and research cooperation—areas that I am confident will stand him in good stead in his next career working for Australia and for Australians and their interests and on their behalf with the United States, which is our largest investment market. It is our largest investment partner and, of course, a key trading partner as well.
It's through agencies such as Austrade and Export Finance Australia that our government, with a strong economy, is able to keep helping Australian exporters continue to succeed and export more into the future. Austrade provides expertise and advice through a network of 117 offices across the globe, helping exporters in all of those cities and markets so they are able to succeed and sell a record value of Australian goods and services into those markets. Export Finance Australia provides valuable financial expertise and solutions to help businesses grow. Last financial year, Export Finance Australia completed 147 transactions, providing over $377 million of support, in terms of financial service assistance, to 107 businesses. But what did that generate and create? It created some $2.3 billion worth of export contracts supporting more than 13,600 jobs. That's what it all comes back to—job opportunities for Australians.
We have a record number of Australian businesses that are exporting now. More than 53,000 Australian businesses are engaged in exporting across the globe, including 46,000 small and medium sized enterprises. That's an increase of more than 18 per cent since our government was elected. There are 18 per cent more businesses across all sectors of the economy that are engaged in export activity, and it's estimated that more than 240,000 trade related jobs have been created in the last five years. So, when we think about the employment strength that Senator Cash and Senator Cormann were speaking of earlier today and the jobs growth in Australia, a huge component of that is because of the growth in our export positions. Yes, that has been supported by our trade agreements and by opening up market access across the Australian economy, but it has also been supported by the direct assistance that we as a government provide to help Australian businesses enter those markets. That's why we've grown so many additional exporters.
We have many plans to help Australian businesses grow. We strive to see a further 10,000 Australian businesses engaged in export activities. We want to see and ensure that trade agreements provide market access to around 90 per cent of Australia's trade in the future. Our plan is to continue to provide that practical assistance through Export Finance Australia and Austrade to help that greater number of businesses sell more quality Australian farm produce and agricultural produce and to make sure that our farmers are well placed, when the drought ends, to be able to grow those volumes and the value of those exports. We're going to continue to invest in the support of all of our traditional sectors, as well as in the research and modern sectors as well. In terms of particular plans across the broader Pacific region and our advocacy in the United States of America, we'll have a great advocate in growing Australian exports and trade into the future. We wish you well, Arthur.