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Governments coming to the rescue?

Call me a cynic, but while some business leaders were getting all excited about our Governments latest initiatives to secure business for our manufacturing industry, I'm not so sure the majority will actually see any benefits.

Late in July, the Australian Federal Government issued a press release entitled A FAIRER GO FOR AUSSIE BUSINESS AT HOME AND ABROAD - Boosting Australian Industry Participation.

According to Access Economics, in June this year $230 billion worth of major investment projects were under way or committed in Australia, with another $464 billion on the drawing board.

The value of work available internationally is many times higher than this, with the global government procurement market alone worth an estimated $14 trillion.

It goes on to say that 'We want to give Australian firms the best chance of getting in the game and the best chance of winning.' (I'm guessing this is the same line every other government in the world are spruiking, so its an interesting approach.)

The Government will require Australian industry participation plans from firms bidding for the Commonwealth's own major procurements and infrastructure projects.

These plans encourage project proponents to;

 shane_drew.jpg

 Shane Drew has been involved in the sign industry since 1992. 
 Before that he had a very successful career in sales, winning several Sales Awards before deciding on a career change in his early 30's.
 Shane has been writing freelance articles since 2002 and is a sign industry mentor for sign shops both in Australia and Europe, is a regular contributor to Europe's biggest sign industry forum, and is well known in local circles for his passion about the Australian Sign Industry.
 Shane is Managing Director of Drews Sign It Pty Ltd, a family business who are supporters of several major charities and not-for-profit organisations, donating over $30,000 in signage in 2008 alone.
 A recent highlight is his appointment as a Green Guardian for his support of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, on Queensland's Southern Gold Coast.

It enthuses that Australian industry and workers will get a fairer go at winning government and private sector contracts under a stronger industry participation framework thanks to a $19.1 million funding boost announced by Innovation Minister, Senator Kim Carr.

  • familiarise themselves with Australian industry capabilities,
  • identify qualified local suppliers,
  • communicate supply opportunities for major projects and procurements.

 Several measures will be introduced to strengthen the framework, and include:

  • an extra $8.5 million over four years through the Supplier Access to Major Projects (SAMP) program to give companies a better chance of securing work.
  • appointment of Eminent business specialists as Supplier Advocates to champion Australian industry in the government marketplace and improve competitiveness ($8.2 million over four years).
  • a requirement for tenderers to submit Australian industry participation plans that give local business a fair go at winning major Commonwealth contracts and work on Commonwealth-funded infrastructure projects, including projects supported by the Building Australia Fund ($2.5 million over four years).

Assuming all this government back patting has not sent you to sleep, the press release continues by saying "The Supplier Advocates will help small and medium-sized businesses market their products to government buyers and will champion sectoral initiatives to improve competitiveness.

The Government is also;

  • Tightening the guidelines for the Enhanced Projects By-law Scheme and Tariff Concession System. The aim is to strengthen Australian industry participation requirements for private sector investment projects that access the Enhanced Project By-law Scheme.
  • Planning to work with State Governments to get them on board.
  • Strengthening these measures further in line with an announcement by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner.

For more information on the Industry Capability Network, including video, visit icn.org.au.

Personally, I'll believe it when I see it. And why wouldn't they get the State Governments on board before making the announcement?

From my perspective as a small business operator, less red tape, lower operating fees (taxes) and easier access to government tenders would resolve a lot of problems small business has with doing government work.

Strikes me that putting a supplier advocate in the mix is just more bureaucracy, and more opportunity for some businesses to get an unfair advantage. As it is now, if you want to be involved with a major contract, you usually need to have an alliance with Architects, Civil or Structural Engineers, Advertising Agencies and Sign Brokers. Adding more levels of government intervention is a backward step in my mind.

Anyone that has seen or considered submitting a tender for government work in the past will know that most tenders are worded to favour their preferred suppliers anyway. So if this doesn't change, everything promised in the press release is simply a pipe dream.

And, with all this political posturing about job creation, lets not forget that contracts for the supply of uniforms for Police, Nurses, Fire fighters, Ambulance Officers, Corrective Services personnel, Queensland Rail staff and the state's park rangers all went to China and Indonesia, even though we have had a strong manufacturing base here..

A recent report on news.com.au states that a $20 million contract to supply Queensland Health with hospital gowns, bedsheets and pillowcases has gone to China too.

Embroidered badges for Main Roads and QR staff also  went to China, even State Government grants to private schools for blazers are being spent in China.

So, you'll forgive me if I'm a little cynical when a State or Federal Politician says he/she has my interests as a small business at heart.

Shane Drew
www.dsi.net.au