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Joint Budget 2002-03 Statement

Joint Media Release

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon Alexander Downer MP, and Minister for Trade, Hon Mark Vaile MP

Tuesday, 14 May 2002

Joint Budget 2002-03 Statement

Improved Passport Services

The Budget provides for a new five-year passport, which will be offered to Australians aged 75 and over at half the standard price from 1 July 2002. This passport addresses the needs of senior Australians who may wish to travel overseas.

The Budget also provides for up to $3.0 million in 2002-03 for research and development of a facial biometric identifier for the new Australian passport by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Introduction of biometric identifier would strengthen current identity verification processes and significantly improve the detection of fraudulent passport applications.

Strengthened passport integrity is an important element in combating terrorism and transnational crime. Development of a biometric identifier would be in line with action taken by other countries. Contingent on successful research, a decision on the introduction of biometric identifier could be made in the next year.

Increasing exporters and developing new trade opportunities

The Government is committed to developing and expanding opportunities for Australian exports.

The Budget will commit $21.50 million over four years to help more small businesses become successful exporters. This funding will extend and expand the successful TradeStart export assistance network. TradeStart is a Coalition initiative to ensure small and medium companies in regional Australia get the support they need to succeed in international markets. More small businesses engaged in exporting means greater opportunities for job creation. As many regional and rural communities depend on small business for the strength of their economies, a greater export focus will bring real benefits to the regions.

The Government’s funding will continue TradeStart for another four years, and open 10 new offices in key regional areas. Subject to negotiations with local partners, the new offices will be in Dubbo, Penrith, Sutherland (NSW), Emerald (QLD), Bunbury (WA), Geelong, Mildura (Vic), Port Lincoln (SA), the Adelaide-based Australian Wine Export Council, plus one other location. The 10 new offices are in addition to the already 24 TradeStart offices opened since 1996.

The Government had also decided to roll the Export Access programme into TradeStart, to improve the services delivered to companies in metropolitan and regional areas. TradeStart operates as a partnership between the Government’s trade agency Austrade and local partners – including chambers of commerce, private sector organisations, and State and Territory Governments. By leveraging Austrade’s knowledge of international markets with its partners’ local expertise, TradeStart has proven a cost-effective and highly efficient way of helping companies into export.

The Budget also commits $1.6 million over four years to double the minimum grant under the Export Market Development Grant (EMDG) scheme. More than 250 small businesses each year will benefit from the Government’s decision to increase the minimum grant from $2,500 to $5,000.

The Government is committed to double to 50,000 the number of exporters by 2006 and the EMDG scheme will play an important role in helping small businesses break into exporting for the first time.

The EMDG scheme provides assistance to small and medium Australian-based companies trying to break into export markets. It reimburses 50 per cent of eligible export marketing expenses, less the first $15,000. The Government’s initiative to double the minimum grant will build on the improvements built into the scheme by the Government last year.

Aid Budget Highlights

Australia will provide$1.815 billion as official development assistance (ODA) in 2002-03, an increase of $90 million over the 2001-02 budget figure of $1.725 billion and a real increase of 3 per cent. This is an ODA/GNI ratio of 0.25 per cent, placing Australia consistently above the donor average which in the latest year available (2001) was 0.22 per cent.

In 2002-03, Australia's aid program will retain its strong focus on the Asia-Pacific region where it makes an important contribution to regional peace and stability as well as to poverty reduction. Australia's commitment to the nations of the Pacific will continue with total aid flows increasing to $165 million including increasing funding to the Solomon Islands, resuming a full bilateral aid program to Fiji, and increased support for the Vanuatu Government's efforts to promote prosperity and stability. Aid to Asian countries will be maintained with funding to Burma increasing and continued significant support to Indonesia to assist its reform agenda. Further funding will be provided for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Funding for humanitarian, emergency and refugee programs will reach $116.4 million, the highest level yet. A special $15 million international refugee allocation will be available to assist refugees and internally displaced people. Increased funding will be provided for developing country access to education and information through the Virtual Colombo Plan, and an increased volunteer program. An additional commitment of $18 million will be provided over three years to support debt relief in the poorest countries. Trade-related assistance of around $25 million will strengthen developing countries' capacity to participate in global and regional trading arrangements.

© Scoop Media

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