Export

Austrade fails to deliver for exporters, former official claims

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Austrade has failed to improve the state of Australian exporting, a former Austrade commissioner says.

Austrade has failed to improve the state of Australian exporting, a former Austrade commissioner says.

Paul Brewer, former commissioner and University of Queensland Business School lecturer, told The Australian that Austrade is failing to meet expectations.

“They don’t actually make a difference in Australia’s total exports, or number of exporters, or any other concrete objective, because they’re trying to do something where the effectiveness of their actions is going to be swamped by economic conditions,” he says.

Brewer points to new Bureau of Statistics data that shows the number of exporters remained static between 2002-03 and 2006-07.

By 2006-07, Australian companies with export sales exceeding $10,000 came to just 31,765 – barely above the 31,174 figure recorded in 2002-03. Taxpayers spent $327 million on Austrade during 2007-08. The organsiation operates in more than 63 countries.

But Austrade chief economist Tim Harcourt defends the group’s efforts.

“There have been a few things left out,” he says. “The data has been adjusted three times, basically because when the ABS first wanted to do a measure, it hadn’t been done before. They took a bit of a stab at it and then did two other adjustments.

“Look, Austrade’s job is to get the marginal exporter in the game who otherwise wouldn’t be there. I think you can say there’s a number of businesses didn’t know how to export, didn’t know how to get into the game, and can now do so because we’re able to help.”

Opinions about Austrade vary wildly among entrepreneurs. While some dismiss the organisation’s effectiveness all together, others are full of praise.

The managing director of a company that exports to India also says Austrade isn’t producing any benefits for exporters.

“The general consensus is that you don’t get any help from them,” he says. “There is really no benefit going to them, and they are quite expensive. And most of the work you get from them, you can do yourself.”

But Ellie Redman, the export manager of Carmen’s Fine Foods, also defended the group, saying Austrade is “fantastic”.

“We wouldn’t achieve half of our export achievements without their help, so I’m very much surprised by those comments. We use Austrade regularly. Just recently we had a case where we were moving warehouses in the United States, but we couldn’t go, so the Austrade went for us and gave us a full report. They’re great.”

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