Labor leader Anthony Albanese has put sovereign procurement at the centre of the party’s industry policy ahead of the looming federal election, promising a greater share of the government spending will be directed to local industry.
Mr Albanese told the NSW state Labor conference on Saturday that a Labor government would create a Future Made in Australia Office inside the Finance department to coordinate a whole-of-government approach to increase local industry participation in contracts.
Changes to Commonwealth Procurement Rules that assist local industry will be enshrined in law, and a Cabinet sub-committee lead by the Industry minister and Finance minister would drive government spending to maximise the benefits to the economy.
“The way in which Governments use their purchasing power reflects how they view the Government’s role in shaping the economy,” Mr Albanese said.
“Today I announce Labor’s 10 point Buy Australian Plan. This plan will ensure that the Australian Government is backing Australian workers and Australian businesses.”
A ten-point Buy Australian Plan includes provisions – to be backed up by new laws – that would ensure that companies that are given Commonwealth contracts pay their “fair share” of tax, and also meet minimum standards in business conduct, including employment practices.
“Under the Buy Australian Act maximising the benefit of Government purchases to Australia will be the law of the land,” Mr Albanese told the conference.
“Labor will establish a Future Made in Australia office within the Department of Finance to drive a whole of Government approach.
“The Finance Minister and Minister for Industry will lead a Cabinet sub-committee on procurement. 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.
“This will be done by packaging tenders where appropriate into multiple packages that allow smaller companies to bid for them.”
The ten-point Buy Australia Plan mirrors a ‘Made in America’ executive order signed by Joe Biden as one of his first acts as president in January, designed to maximise the economic benefit to American companies – particularly in the manufacturing sector – of government spending.
Mr Albanese said a Labor government would also use procurement policy to provide more opportunities for First Nations businesses and workers, as well as direct government spending power to take action on climate change and support energy projects.
The procurement rule changes would also aim to create better linkages between Defence and local industry.
A future Labor government would develop ‘Future Made in Australia Industry Plans’ in areas including textile, clothing and footwear, digital, innovation and startups, paper, pulp and fibre and renewables component manufacture.
Mr Albanese said he would work to ensure the $20 billion provided to the states and territories each year through National Partnership Agreements is consistent with a national agreement on the Future Made in Australia policies.
“Together these plans will ensure that Australia’s capacity to manufacture essential goods in areas including health, energy, infrastructure, defence and space and communications is increased and that we are more resilient.”
Shadow Industry minister Ed Husic foreshadowed the sovereign procurement plans in a speech on Friday, lamenting Australia’s slide down various international benchmarks for economic complexity, innovation and manufacturing.
He said government spending should be harnessed to bolster supply chains, build industrial capacity, drive sovereign capability, and underpin Australia’s economic recovery.
“Given the ten-year, $110 billion infrastructure pipeline in the federal government’s healthily advertised economic recovery plan, our nation’s private sector would benefit immensely from a commitment that maximised benefits for Australian firms,” Mr Husic said.
“The annual government spend on ICT, at a federal level, is closing in on $10 billion, which gives government significant ability to provide broad benefits to the Australian economy and industry. Yet major digital contracts keep going to overseas based firms.”
“Governments know they need to spend taxpayer dollars to get the things it needs. It can, and should, chose to use procurement dollars to benefit the nation, instead of funneling economic opportunity and value to the big businesses and SME’s of other nations,” he said.
“I constantly hear stories of local talent chasing those opportunities and being denied.“
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