The economic and social benefits to Australia from Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) cannot be understated. The additional tax revenue generated from the financial support and operation of infrastructure, education, tourism and countless other businesses and endeavours, goes towards the funding of health care, education, social services and other essential programmes. The employment created and the benefits to the Australian workforce are also substantial.
The facilitation of FDI and the promotion of investment opportunities is a core function of the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, known as Austrade, and is the subject of this inquiry.
During the course of the inquiry it became clear that Austrade is in a state of review and improvement, driven by an analysis of it capabilities to respond to changing markets and investment priorities. This introspective drive for change is a welcome development in a government agency that works cooperatively in the best interests of all levels of Australian government and crucial industries.
The Committee was eager to hear from all relevant stakeholders, government, industry and peak bodies, and expresses its thanks to those parties that tendered submissions to the inquiry. While the response to invitations to submit was somewhat limited, the Committee was able to identify key themes from the evidence received to inform the current processes underway in Austrade, as well as to highlight areas for new or renewed focus going forward.
The Committee is recommending that Austrade refocus and recast its collective partnering with state and territory governments, while increasing engagement with local government. This renewed and increased engagement can come through the current National Investment Advisory Board process, as well as through increased cooperation with Regional Development Australia Committees and the development of an online marketplace to promote potential projects in regional Australia.
The Committee also recommends that as part of its business improvement agenda, Austrade prioritise development of digital and data strategies, already in train, to allow for improvement in the collection and promotion of real-time data for investors. Additionally, the Committee recommends that Austrade set timeframes and define performance measurements for the full range of strategies, roadmaps and review implementations, digital strategies included, currently being undertaken, or developed in the future. These timeframes and measurements are essential to build confidence in the benefit and improvement to be garnered from the Austrade Strategy 2018–2022 that is currently being addressed within the agency.
The Committee heard from a range of stakeholders about the benefits of FDI to Australia and on the critical role that Austrade has in facilitating these benefits. On behalf of the Committee, I thank all of the submitters and witnesses who contributed to this inquiry.
I would like to thank my Committee colleagues for their work on this inquiry, and particularly the Deputy Chair, Mr Ross Hart MP, for his valuable support and input. I also thank the secretariat staff, for their work in supporting this inquiry.