RIVERINA TRADE ASSISTANCE
The Hon. A. B. MANSON: My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Has the Government offered any assistance to the Riverina region to help it to trade with the rest of the world?
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: Good question, Andy!
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: It is an excellent question, and I am pleased the Hon. M. R. Kersten agrees. The Riverina is a leading example of a region working to integrate its economy into the global economy, based on its strength and diversity as a producer of world-class food and fibre products. In recent years the Riverina has developed a strong export culture. Many of the Riverina’s existing businesses and a number of new investments have focused on export trade. The Government supports these initiatives as examples of practical and effective regional development that will deliver sustainable jobs growth in the bush.
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: On a point of order. I refer to page 365 of Erskine May.
The PRESIDENT: Order! What is the point of order?
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: A member is not permitted to read a speech other than to refresh his memory by reference to notes. The Leader of the House is clearly reading his reply verbatim.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Virginia Chadwick, as a former Minister, would be very well aware that Ministers are at liberty to answer questions in whatever manner they please. This is a tradition of which the Hon. Virginia Chadwick took enormous advantage when she was a Minister.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The Riverina region is renowned across Australia as a reliable producer of a vast range and volume of quality food and fibre products, and that reputation is spreading overseas. Only this week my parliamentary secretary, Sandra Nori, opened a Winning Malaysian Trade expo in Wagga Wagga and visited a parallel expo, Agri-food to Asia, in Griffith. These well-organised and well-attended events were hosted by the Riverina Regional Economic Development Organisation, the Riverina Regional Development Board and Austrade. The expo in Griffith dealt mainly with opportunities for food exports, concentrating on the north-east Asian market, while the Wagga Wagga event focused on opportunities and issues for small to medium enterprises targeting the Malaysian market.
That was a direct follow-on from the successful 47-strong delegation of business and economic development representatives which travelled to the northern states of Malaysia in March this year. The delegation was accompanied by Sandra Nori, who represented the New South Wales Government. Instead of tackling the whole Malaysian market, the delegation strategically targeted the northern states of Perak, Penang, Keah and Perlis, forging region-to-region links. It is early days yet but already a number of firms that participated in this tour are following up business opportunities arising out of business contacts they made in Malaysia. While she was in Griffith this week, Sandra Nori was also able to visit the de Bortoli winery at Bilbul. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is telling me the truth, I understand that Bilbul is named after one of his ancestors whose name was Bill Bull.
In any event Sandra Nori was at Bilbul to look at a boutique brewery that is being established by the de Bortoli winery. That export-based project represents a capital investment of $1 million and should generate as many as 30 additional jobs. The Government is assisting de Bortoli’s to set up the brewery. A total of $30,000 will be provided from the regional business development scheme of the Department of State and Regional Development. In another coup for the region an agribusiness development alliance was recently secured between the Riverina and the Chinese province of Liaoning. In November last year the first of the Government’s consuls-general’s tours took place in the Riverina region and the consuls were very impressed with the range and variety of export-ready produce they were shown. That serves to enhance the Riverina’s reputation overseas and to further the network of personal contacts and trade links that lead to export success.
The first of the Government’s six export advisers to be placed across New South Wales was
recently appointed in Wagga Wagga. He comes to the job from a private sector export industry in the region and will assist exporting and export-ready businesses in the Riverina to do business overseas. At present the Government is assisting local businesses with projects totalling almost $10 million in capital investment and creating approximately 170 new jobs. Negotiations are also continuing on a number of other substantial investment projects in the Riverina, including the expansion of an existing vegetable canning plant, the relocation of a mushroom farm from Sydney, a proposed $350 million Kraft mill and the establishment of a new Canola processing plant as an export joint venture with Chinese interests. The productive partnership between the Riverina region and the Government is an example to other regions of identifying competitive strengths and taking advantage of the global trade opportunities suited to them.