Labor will increase funding for the Export Markets Development Grants scheme and increase the turnover threshold companies must come under to make a claim if elected, according to shadow trade minister Simon Crean.
In a speech delivered to the Australian India Business Council yesterday, Crean said that the real value of grants have fallen under the scheme since the Howard Government came to power in 1996, while medium-sized business have been excluded from making claims because of the $30 million turnover cap.
“We will restore and strengthen the EMDG by substantially increasing the funds available for the program and changing the eligibility criteria for accessing the scheme so that more exporters will be able to access increased levels of assistance,” Crean said.
On the other side of politics, the focus is on Prime Minister John Howard’s launch of a promised $4 billion dollar package of cash payments to pensioners and carers yesterday.
The package will deliver $500 a year in the form of a “utilities allowance” to pensioners, up from the current $107.20 payment. The scheme will also be extended to more than 80,000 people receiving disability support pensions and carers payments.
The new payments will start being delivered from March next year if the Coalition is re-elected.
And Labor IR spokeswoman Julia Gillard is to expected to announce that Labor will create a new body to push for harmonisation of state and federal occupational health and safety laws if it wins November’s federal election.
The new body would also be directed by Labor to consider whether the viability of state OH&S regimes is being threatened by the migration of some big businesses to self-insure under the cheaper federal Comcare regime.
In the meantime, reports today suggest Labor will place a moratorium on any further big businesses moving to the federal system. Comcare is only open to businesses that were previously government-owned or that compete against government bodies. Chubb Security and Optus are two companies that have recently moved to the scheme.
There has long been concern that by allowing big businesses to self-insure under the federal system, SMEs will be left to foot bigger bills under state regimes.
Inconsistencies in workplace safety laws between the state and federal systems, and fears that some employees could fall through the cracks if there is confusion about which system covers them, have also been an issue.