Trade Minister Warren Truss launched the Coalition’s trade policy last night with a promise to spend an additional $45.5 million over four years to open up new markets for Australia’s exporters.
Delivered during a debate with Labor’s trade spokesman Simon Crean at the Lowy Institute last night, the package includes:
- $20 million over four years to increase the exports of Australian services. The money will go to a marketing campaign for the financial services sectors and other schemes to be arranged after discussion with industry.
- $11 million over three years to go to matched grants of up to $1 million to help exporters conduct market research and conduct trade promotions in order to better access global supply chains.
- $10 million over four years to fund marketing and other projects designed to help grow Australian food and beverage exports in China, the United States, Britain, India and Singapore, Thailand and Japan.
A key omission from the package was any plan to increase funding or improve the Export Market Development Grants scheme, Truss only committing to “maintain the Government’s commitment” to the scheme.
This leaves an opening for Labor to make an announcement to improve the scheme that could prove popular with exporters. Although opposition trade spokesman Crean did not take the opportunity last night to announce Labor’s trade policy, he has previously said greater funding and an easing in eligibility criteria for grants would improve the scheme.
The election agenda was otherwise dominated by health yesterday, with both major party leaders making multi-million dollar promises.
John Howard committed $444 million to increase the number of university medical graduates from 1300 in 2004 to almost 3000 graduates by 2012 and create a “flying squad” of nurses to visit nursing homes.
And Kevin Rudd gave out more details regarding how he would spend the $600 million he announced two weeks ago to reduce elective surgery waiting lists. Rudd says $100 million will be given to the states to cut existing waiting lists and another $300 million as incentive to improve surgery times in the longer term.
But possibly the biggest health related headline came out of the lunchtime debate between Health Minister Tony Abbot and his shadow Nicola Roxon. Abbot was 30 minutes late for the nationally televised debate, leaving Roxon to deliver a one-sided debate until his arrival.