Local industry cheers Labor on procurement, but wants more detail

James Riley
Editorial Director

The Labor plan to use government’s massive procurement budget to build domestic industrial capability and capacity by directing more of the spending toward local companies has been welcomed by industry.

But while the goals of the sovereign procurement policy announced by Opposition Anthony Albanese over the weekend are simple, implementation is complex and the industry wants more detail.

The breadth and depth of the Labor policy – as well as its timing – came as a surprise to many. But overall, the thinking behind the ‘buy Australian’ framework was welcomed with optimism.

Parliament House
Sovereign capability, sovereign procurement

In June, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) had called on government to establish a Made in Australia Office as a key recommendation in its Domestic Capability Framework, and so naturally supported Mr Albanese’ plans to establish a Future Made in Australia Office.

“The AIIA not only endorses government support of local capability through its procurements, but we also believe Australia’s largest listed companies have a key role to play and we call on the ASX 200 to start to have a conversation around secure digital supply chains and supporting domestic capability,” said AIIA policy and advocacy general manager Simon Bush.

“We note that digital, innovation and start-ups are a focus of the proposed Made in Australian Industry Plans, and we will continue to support policies that promote the growth of the local tech sector, which we know will provide significant employment opportunities and strong economic growth.

Vault Cloud chief executive Rupert Taylor-Price – a member of the NSW government Sovereign Procurement Taskforce and chair of the Domestic Capacity committee inside the AIIA – said that “supporting the growth of Australian companies, fulfilling citizen trust and ensuring our national security is, and should be a bipartisan issue.”

“If enacted, Labor’s industry policy announcement will improve the course of Australia’s future, result in better jobs for Australians, increase our nation’s sovereignty, raise the quality of living for all Australians and improve our national security,” he said.

One senior executive within an Australian software as a service company pointed to Joe Biden establishing a Made In America Office as one of his first acts as President as a clear indicator of the future role of government as a buyer acting to build national prosperity.

Post-Covid there is a new global race emerging around the rapid development of supply chains, the executive said.

The AIIA’s Simon Bush said there was a balance to be made between attracting foreign technology companies to Australia to invest and grow and supporting the growth of Australian companies.

“The AIIA understands the complexity of developing policies that look to both ensure that Australia remains an attractive place for large tech companies to continue to invest and grow, as well as support the growth and expansion of our local SME ecosystem – which both underpin a domestic technology capability,” Mr Bush said.

“We don’t see them as being mutually exclusive and we look forward to understanding how the Buy Australian Plan will ensure that the entire ecosystem is supported to grow Australian jobs and capability,” he said.

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