By Duncan Evans
Federal Labor Leader Anthony Albanese will prioritise small and medium-sized businesses in federal government procurement contracts as part of a ‘Buy Australian’ policy designed to boost Australia’s industrial capacity.
Mr Albanese made the commitment in a speech to the Labor faithful at the NSW Labor State Conference on Saturday, promising to establish a Future Made in Australia office within the Department of Finance to help realise the ambition.
“Labor will provide opportunities for mid and small tier Australian companies to participate in the infrastructure pipeline helping to build and strengthen our sovereign capability,” he said.
“This will be done by packaging tenders where appropriate, into multiple packages that allow smaller companies to bid for them.”
“Taxpayer funded procurements across Government have been worth $200 billion over the last 3 years,” he added.
“This plan will ensure that the Australian Government is backing Australian workers and Australian businesses.”
Alongside procurement, the 10-point plan includes a commitment to First Nations businesses and a defence industry development strategy that maximises local content.
The policy may come as welcome news to local businesses across Central Queensland, who have expressed concerns to Gladstone Today that the major infrastructure projects set to transform the region over the coming decade are dominated by Tier 1 and Tier 2 contractors largely external to the region.
At present, there are no Tier 1 firms native to Central Queensland, or the kind of enterprises with the scale and expertise necessary to take on multi-million dollar infrastructure projects.
In a statement released to Gladstone Today, Gladstone Mayor and Labor’s candidate for the federal seat of Flynn Matt Burnett said Buy Australian would have a direct and positive effect on businesses across Central Queensland by boosting manufacturing and uplifting local capability.
“The Buy Australia policy is all about improving local capability and giving regional businesses the support to become leaders in manufacturing,” he said.
“A federal Labor government will open the door to more government work for more small and medium businesses by decoding and simplifying procurement processes.”
Mr Burnett also said the Future Made in Australia office would actively support local industry to take advantage of government purchasing opportunities.
Labor’s Buy Australian policy is part of a broader ambition to enshrine manufacturing as a new pillar of wealth for the regions.
In a telephone call with Gladstone Today in August, Mr Albanese touted his party’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund as a conduit to more jobs in Central Queensland.
“We want to make more things here,” Mr Albanese said.
“We’ve established our National Reconstruction Fund, $15 billion to look at how do we transform existing industries, but how do we also create new industries.”
“So for example, at the aluminium refinery there run by Rio Tinto in Gladstone. They’re looking at using solar to power the refinery. And when I visited there, we had a briefing about that, and that’s about, that’s not about ideology, that’s about reducing their costs, and allowing them to operate more efficiently. So there are a range of potentials that are there in terms of high-value jobs.”