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Doorstop – Toowoomba

20 March 2019

Subject: Funding for Toowoomba SME Export Hub


The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP held a doorstop with Federal Member for Groom, Dr John McVeigh, CEO of Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise, Ali Davenport, and CEO of Jim's Jerky, Emily Pullen.

John McVeigh: Well, good morning everyone. Great to be here at the TSBE headquarters here in Toowoomba to make this very significant announcement with the Honourable Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Technology. So, Karen, welcome to Toowoomba, great to have you here.  And can I just at the outset very much acknowledge and thank TSBE for hosting us here this morning.

So, we're just going to chat about the announcement and the Minister and Emily Pullen and obviously Ali Davenport from TSBE will make a few comments about what this means in our region as well.

So now, today we're announcing the funding of the Southern Queensland Innovation and Export Hub headquartered here at TSBE in Toowoomba. Now, this is almost $840,000 being invested to support TSBE, in particular the food and agribusiness sector of course, the oil and gas resources sector as well. And those are the hallmarks of our economy in this part of the world.

So, I'm very thankful that the Minister could join us today. Thank you so much, Karen. And can I say at the outset, I think this is significant for Toowoomba, it’s significant for the Darling Downs, obviously it's significant for the whole of Southern Queensland and our important economic hallmarks of agribusiness and the resources sector.

Prior to coming into politics, my business, my work was all in agricultural export. So I'm thrilled to see this announcement, because it's what I used to do. And along with Shane Charles, the chairman of TSBE, whom I acknowledge here today as well, I was amongst others that got this organisation TSBE off the ground some years ago. So, just a couple of reasons I'm really thrilled with this announcement, Karen.

I’ll hand it over to Karen now, as Minister, to explain the export hub concept. And Karen comes to her role and she comes to Toowoomba with significant experience in engineering and science herself, small business as well, and as the Member for McPherson not so far down the road at the Gold Coast. So, Karen, thank you very much for being here today. And I’d be keen for you to share with us about the export hub concept.

Karen Andrews: Thank you, John. And it is a pleasure to be here in Toowoomba today. Last year, the Liberal National Government announced in its Budget that there would be funding to establish export hubs. So, we have gone through a process of inviting organisations, such as TSBE, to nominate to establish an export hub.

Now today, John and I are announcing that TSBE is one of the successful applicants and that we are providing $840,000 to establish an export hub right here in Toowoomba.

Now, we understand, as the government of small businesses, that small and medium enterprises need a lot of support if they're to be able to develop their markets, particularly markets overseas. So what the export hubs will do is work with local small and medium enterprises in the first instance - we're targeting about 60 local businesses - in the agriculture sector and also in oil, gas and energy, and the export hub will be working with those businesses to help them develop to look at what their capabilities are to access export markets clearly overseas.

So, it's a great announcement here for Toowoomba and I am so looking forward to hearing more about the work that TSBE is going to be doing with the local enterprises here to make sure that we are strongly developing our export markets for agriculture and also for oil, energy and gas.

John McVeigh: Thanks, Minister. I just wanted to head over now briefly to talk about a local example, and I'll call on Emily Pullen from Jim’s Jerky to talk about their export plans and what this hub might mean to their business and therefore workers and the beef industry here on the Downs. In doing that, I just wanted to mention that Emily was in Canberra last year at a Cattle Council event for young leaders, emerging leaders in the beef industry. And it was tremendous to give Emily the call out down there in Canberra last year. She's doing us proud and I think, Emily, you’ve got some exciting observations to share with us today about the future for Jim’s Jerky.

Emily Pullen: Yeah, well thank you very much for having us here this morning. We're obviously a locally based small business that makes beef jerky. One of the things that we really see as a business is Australian beef has an amazing reputation overseas and we'd love to take that to another segment, which is snacking. So, from our perspective, we really welcome this hub coming to Toowoomba. For a business like ours, we really would love to understand what it would take to take the next step into export, so that has a whole lot of ramifications for us. And when you're working in a business, it's really hard to work on it as well, so having support from TSBE and with this hub will mean that we can actually start taking strides towards hopefully taking Australian beef to the world, but in a different format, in snacking. Awesome.

John McVeigh: Tremendous. Now, lastly I’ll invite Ali Davenport to join us here now. Now, Ali, as the CEO of TSBE, has the job of getting the hub into action. So, over to you, Ali.

Ali Davenport: Absolutely. Thank you very much, and thank you very much to Minister Andrews for this announcement. It is very exciting for our region. We're looking forward to working with those 60 businesses to help them grow into export. We know there are a lot of opportunities there for our food and ag businesses, but also for oil and gas businesses as well, because they are very strong in the innovation and technology space - we know we have products here that we can take to the world. So, this investment in our region is very gratefully accepted. We're going to work hard with [indistinct] and with [indistinct]; they’re the existing growth centres. We're going to work with them closely to deliver for these 60 businesses and take our products to the world.

Question: It is sort of similar work to the mentoring program that's already been going on, I guess an extension of that?

Ali Davenport: It is an extension of that, but we haven't actually offered that to the oil and gas space, so that's kind of the change for us and that's the really- the interesting part for us as well, as to going into that new part of the industry.

Question: So when we’re talking export, are we talking, you know, more freight on flights into Wellcamp or [indistinct]? What are the practicality [indistinct]?

Ali Davenport: We would love to put more freight out of the airport, and we have Robert Cash here today from the Wellcamp Airport. We would love to support the airport, but of course we have Inland Rail coming to us; we have the Port of Brisbane; we have lots of opportunities to get our products out there. So, whatever is the best way for those businesses.

Question: Is this something businesses are asking for? Like, where, how do they do it, where to go?

Ali Davenport: Absolutely. Look, there are a lot of barriers to entry for small to medium enterprises and we're going to be helping them to overcome those barriers. So, they have been asking- a lot of businesses say: well, we don't know how to do this. So we’re going to help them do that.

Karen Andrews: Can I just add something to that as well? We know that with many small businesses - and we've heard from Emily today - small businesses are very focused inwardly on what they're doing on a day to day basis and they don't often have the opportunity to look outside of that, to see what the opportunities are for them to expand their businesses. So what the export hubs will do is also identify- it'll do outreach to make sure that we're picking up small businesses that have a great product or the potential to develop markets overseas and working with them. So, it's not just going to be waiting for small businesses to approach the export hubs; there will also be outreach as well.

Question: Minister, you said Toowoomba was one export hub - where are the other hubs?

Karen Andrews: They’ll be announced all around Australia. We're just in the very early stages of announcing them. However, there was one announced in Adelaide yesterday as well. So, you’re one of the first cabs off the rank, so to speak, which is great news.

Question: So, does that make it the first regional export hub under this announcement?

Karen Andrews: That we’ve announced? Yes, it is.

Question: Will there be any others in Queensland?

Karen Andrews: I think you'll need to wait for that announcement. But good question.

Karen Andrews: Thank you.

John McVeigh: Thanks everyone.