Budget 2019: $61 million for SME exports but no action on onerous grant process

Matthew Elmas /

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The Shanghai skyline.

The government is looking to back SMEs exporting overseas ahead of the election, proposing $61 million over three years to help businesses get the word out about their products.

Announced in Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s 2019-20 budget on Tuesday, the government has proposed $60 million for grants that would boost SME exports and a further $1 million in 2019-20 for promoting Australian industry overseas.

Frydenberg said the measures would allow SMEs to capitalise on opportunities created by a raft of free trade agreements signed recently.

“Businesses are also benefitting from the free trade agreements the government has secured,” he said.

“China, Japan, Korea, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and now Indonesia.”

According to the government, the grants will “boost reimbursement levels of eligible export marketing expenditure”.

The budget papers didn’t go into detail about what promoting Australian industries overseas would involve.

There would be $21 million in funding available under the proposed grant program each year through to 2021-22, administered under the Australian Trade and Investment Commission.

In other export-related budget details, $3.9 million was proposed to establish an Australian Trade and Defence Office in Israel, which would look to “maximising research and development and export opportunities” for Australian businesses.

There were, however, no measures outlined in the budget to deal with concern among SMEs that government grant programs are inaccessible and too onerous to apply for.

Business owners, small business ombudsman Kate Carnell and Council of Small Businesses of Australia chief executive Peter Strong have called for a more effective Commonwealth grants scheme in recent months.

Business owners have previously told SmartCompany grant schemes can take days to apply for and take too long to deliver funding certainty.

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany. You can contact him at [email protected].