Pocock urges tech firms to engage on sovereign capability

James Riley
Editorial Director

Independent senator David Pocock has appealed to local tech companies to have their say on government procurement policy by making a submission to a Senate committee looking at developing sovereign capability in the technology sector.

Senator Pocock was instrumental in having the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee open its inquiry into developing sovereign tech capability in this country. Submissions to the inquiry close on Friday February 23, ahead of a series of public hearings.

Senator Pocock says one of the issues raised most frequently with his office is the insufficiency of current procurement policy settings to deliver value for money for Australia or foster the development of sovereign capabilities, or to support local technology companies in bringing new products to market.

If the inquiry receives large numbers of submissions from local tech providers it would demonstrate to the parliament how many Australian tech companies are out there with the capability to provide value to government if given the opportunity, he said.

Senator David Pocock

Senator Pocock said it would also make clear to the parliament how few of these companies are winning government contracts, and how often contracts are being awarded to foreign multinationals instead.

“I’m constantly hearing how difficult it is to get a foot in the door when it comes to Australian government procurement,” Senator Pocock said.

“We should be using procurement as a lever to foster the development of sovereign capabilities and to support growing local tech companies as they bring new products to market,” he said.

“Instead, we’re seeing foreign multinationals like Microsoft secure contracts without a tender process. This inquiry offers an opportunity to make the case for urgent procurement reform to the Parliament.

“I’m looking forward to my parliamentary colleagues hearing from local tech entrepreneurs about their cutting-edge products and their dismal experiences attempting to sell to the Commonwealth.”

Senator Pocock has been a vocal advocate for local technology companies since arriving in the Senate after the 2022 election and has made procurement reform a focus of his work.

Specifically, he has pressed government to source more products and services from Australian tech companies, rather that using multinational tech firms as the default provider.

The Finance and Public Administration References Committee inquiry examining the issue has been asked to report by the end of June.

In inquiring into supporting the development of sovereign capability in the Australian tech sector it has been asked to have particular reference to:

  • the adequacy of current procurement policy settings across the Australian Government for supporting Australian tech companies, including but not limited to policies in the Digital Sourcing Framework;
  • the challenges faced by smaller Australian tech companies in accessing public sector procurement opportunities, including but not limited to through procurement panels;
  • opportunities for reform of government procurement policy settings to encourage the emergence and growth of more Australian tech companies;
  • the use of non-sovereign-Australian tech across the Australian Public Service and the consequences of that usage on the strength of Australia’s tech sector;
  • the effectiveness of the Buy Australia Plan in supporting Australian tech companies;
  • the level of engagement and consultation between the Australian Government and Australian tech companies, including, but not limited to, through the Future Made in Australia Office;
  • the existence and effectiveness of processes for tracking the performance of suppliers, measuring and reporting on the full and timely delivery of outcomes, and sharing information regarding supplier performance across different government departments and agencies; and
  • any other related matters.

Submissions to the inquiry will close on Friday February 23.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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