BILLS: Trade Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2016, second reading

It is my pleasure to sum up on the Trade Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2016. In doing so, I thank those who have contributed to this debate—in particular, the member for Hughes. He is always on the positive side of business and talking up the government's agenda, innovation and the fact that we are talking about jobs and prosperity going forward. He need not be alarmed, or even surprised, about the member for Rankin objecting to this legislation. On 10 February, when the member for Goldstein announced his retirement, the member for Rankin criticised him—or did not pay him due respect—for the trade deals he had negotiated.

Coming into this chamber and pouring scorn on the Trade Legislation Amendment Bill is typical of the member for Rankin, who does not actually understand business. I do not think he always understands the need to push productivity and create more jobs. I am not surprised; he used to work for the member for Lilley. Hr should have taken some notes from the Leader of the Opposition's magnanimous speech about the member for Goldstein. Minister Robb has done a wonderful thing for this parliament and for this nation in securing trade deals with China—our biggest trading partner—South Korea and Japan. His name will be revered for as long as those trade markets continue to flourish. His name will be etched in gold, let me tell you.                


I will give you some of the key facts on the grant scheme payments. As the member for Hughes has just pointed out, more than 3,100 recipients from around Australia received more than $141 million. The average grant was $44,270. Even just my own electorate had five recipients of these wonderful grants—Paul Pearsall's Australian Grain Link Pty Ltd, involved in cereal grain wholesaling at Wumbulgal in the Leeton Shire was one. Berton Vineyards Pty Ltd received the grant for wine and other alcoholic beverage manufacturing—it is located at Yenda. Flip Screen Australia Pty Ltd at East Wagga Wagga—Sam Turnbull started that particular business in 2002 to manufacture and market his invention, the flip screen, a portable mechanical screening attachment built for skid steers, excavators, wheel loaders, backhoes and telehandlers. This grant is going to enable him to better enhance his export capabilities.                 

There is Quarisa Wines Pty Ltd, another fabulous winemaker from near Griffith—actually Tharbogang—and also RFM Ag Pty Ltd located in Wade Street, Coolamon. It is a leader in developing revolutionary technology for efficient no-till planting—something that is so important for the Riverina where so much of this nation's food and fibre is grown. That is why these export market development grants are so crucial. Fifteen per cent, as we heard the member for Longman say in his contribution, were from rural and regional areas. Sixty-four per cent of recipients were from service industries, including, as he pointed out; 14 per cent from education and culture; and 11.8 per cent from professional, scientific and technical services—so important, we are talking a lot about science and innovation, the agenda that we are getting along with.                 

We heard the member for Longman say in his contribution about the need to look at services such as information and communications technology, which were the recipients of 11.3 per cent of these grants. It is so very important, given the fact that we are transitioning from the construction phase of the mining boom. We are looking at diversifying the economy. Agriculture is always important—that has been enhanced, enlarged and expanded by our trade negotiations—but there is so much more that this country can export. We only have to look at the member for Goldstein's successful negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.                 

Elsewhere, with these grants, 10.6 per cent were from tourism and related industries. Thirty-one per cent were from manufacturing industries, including eight per cent from the machinery and equipment manufacturing sector—I mentioned a couple of those from my electorate—and 6.4 per cent from food and beverage manufacturing such as those two fabulous wineries in the Riverina.                 

When we talk of the Riverina, people have heard me say it in this chamber before that one in four glasses of wine is produced in Griffith alone—right across Australia, a quarter of the wine is produced in Griffith. Just in recent weeks, Casella Wines, of course, famous for its trademark yellow tail brand, has bought Howcroft Estate Vineyards near South Australia's Limestone Coast. It is the first big vineyard's deal of 2016. Family-run Casella is one of the country's biggest wine producers with brands including yellow tail, as I said before, Peter Lehmann Wines and Brand's Laira. It has bought that South Australian vineyard. It is building more containers, more storage units, at its massive processing plant at Yenda. It provides many, many jobs. It underpins the Yenda economy. Indeed, it is a wonderful success story of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. May long that success of the Casella family continue.                

The importance of the Export Market Development Grants scheme is a key Australian financial assistance program. It provides support by way of a reimbursement of eligible export promotional expenditure to Australian small and medium sized businesses which want to begin exporting or grow their exports such as those producing food and fibre from the Riverina. We heard how important this is for regional businesses.                

Eligible exporters can access up to eight grants, and these grants do not need to be in consecutive years. So there is the ability for them to gain these grants and promote, market and build their businesses. How important is that? How valuable is that to many of those businesses which are providing so many jobs, so much security and sustainability for country communities right across the Riverina, regional New South Wales and our nation?                

In introducing this bill into the parliament, the then Minister for Trade and Investment, the Hon. Andrew Robb, argued that the EMDG scheme might indeed be one of the most successful programs the Australian government has known. Of course the member for Moncrieff has taken over that important portfolio from the member for Goldstein and he is getting on with the job of not just building on what the member for Goldstein did but looking at other markets—and of course India is a huge market with huge export opportunities that I know my Riverina winemakers, producers of cotton and everything else are looking at being able to tap into in the years to come after we, hopefully, can secure that market as well.                

The 40 years of bipartisan support that the EMDG has enjoyed—and we heard the member for Longman talking about 1974 being a starting point—certainly supports the views of the former minister for trade, the member for Goldstein, when he argued that the EMDG scheme might well be one of the most successful trade grant programs that the government has known. Indeed it is.                 

Australia's exporters work in markets around the world. It is so important that they are able to do that. It is so important that we are able to tap into those valuable markets, those valuable export opportunities, to grow trade and investment in our country.                 

The Turnbull coalition government is committed to supporting Australian exporters. In 2013, the coalition committed to progressively restore funding to the EMDG by allocating an additional $12½ million per year for four years beginning in 2013-14. Last year the EMDG scheme supported more than 3,100 small and medium sized exporters to develop export markets for their goods and services.                 

This bill gives effect to several recommendations of the 2015 Lee review of the Export Market Development Grants Scheme, tabled in parliament last year by the member for Goldstein. The bill delivers several minor policy and technical amendments to improve the operation of the EMDG scheme and aligns the scheme closer to its budget. The bill amends the definition of a 'grant year' so the scheme can continue beyond its current sunset of 30 June 2016. While the requirement for a review to be conducted simply for the scheme to continue has been taken away, the scheme will still be regularly reviewed, as it ought to be, and this bill sets a date for the next review.                

The bill removes communications as an eligible expenditure category, reflecting the reduced cost of international communications from technologies such as Skype, Viber and WeChat. To bring the scheme in line with modern business practises, promotional literature or other advertising expenditure can now be in an electronic or digital form. The 'free sample' expenditure category has been limited to $15,000. In-country travel expenses other than airfares are no longer reimbursable expenses. However, the eligible daily allowance for overseas visits has been increased by $50 to $350. Activities, things or products that, in the opinion of the Austrade chief executive officer, may have a detrimental impact on Australia's trade reputation can now be excluded expenses.                

The bill permits Austrade to direct funds from its other funding sources towards administrative costs of the EMDG scheme if required. The bill will also change the name of the Australian Trade Commission to the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, in recognition of its role as Australia's investment, promotion and attraction agency.                

I do thank those members who have contributed to this debate. Providing small and medium-sized businesses, those engine-room providers of the economy, with certainty about the EMDG scheme rules is vital, as they start making their marketing plans for the new financial year. I commend the bill to the House.

Cristy Houghton