Manufacturing News

Focus on local procurement welcome but more commitment needed

FOLLOWING the announcement by Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, of a $19.1m package to boost Australian industry participation earlier this week, manufacturers’ lobby group SEMMA says while these comments are welcome, meaningful action is needed to make them effective.

Lyndon Joss, President of SEMMA (South East Melbourne Manufacturers Alliance) has welcomed the recent focus on the need for the Federal Government to review their existing procurement practices with Australian SMEs which they say was heightened this week by the Union movement ahead of the National ALP Conference and Ministers Carr and Tanner’s response.

“It is a first step in the right direction to have these statements. However we need to be guarded in our applause as the degree of Government discrimination and prejudice shown against Australian SME manufacturers over the past decade has been very disappointing.

“We have constantly witnessed ‘the lack of a level playing field’ when local manufacturers quote against overseas competitors. In some cases access to quote for Government requirements is actually refused and in other instances, specifications, red tape, prejudices and the like have simply made it too hard,” Joss said.

SEMMA has said it does not believe there is a need for Government to impose a pricing preference for local SME manufacturers in order to stimulate employment in the manufacturing sector – even in the short term.

Vice President James Sturgess says that any form of local industry ‘protectionism’ has the potential to be detrimental to the long term sustainability of the Australian economy in general, and to the manufacturing industry in particular.

“In the majority of cases that we have witnessed, the Australian manufacturer would have provided a better product and with better value to the taxpayer than their overseas competitors, had they been given an equal opportunity to do so,” Sturgess stated.

According to Joss, the lobby group’s frustration was that the answer to the problem was in fact simple:

“Both the Federal and State Governments need to urgently adopt and embrace the explicit fundamentals of the Australian Industry Participation National Framework document to which they were co-signatories in 2001.

“This document clearly articulates that project proponents are encouraged to consider Australian industry in terms of the value for money it offers over the life cycle of the project, including supply-chain partnership and access to a technologically literate, skilled and talented workforce supporting superior business infrastructure,” Joss said.

SEMMA believes that the fair and sensible application of these principles would immediately provide a substantial volume of additional ongoing business for many thousands of Australian SME manufacturers which in turn would create sustainable jobs and employment within the industry”.

Sturgess says in this regard SEMMA has now commenced a self-funded project to identify Government procurement opportunities and link these with Australian manufacturing capability.

“We have already identified an ongoing import replacement opportunity for two smaller local manufacturers with the one Government authority worth over $5 million per year, which will immediately result in the creation of 15 full time jobs – an increase of 25% on their existing workforce,” he said.

Joss added that SEMMA is ready, willing and able to help the Government achieve its stated objectives and are very hopeful this is not more rhetoric and real benefits will flow. Time will tell and as a grass roots organisation, we will be pleased to see the results.

“SEMMA would also like to see all key stakeholders in Australia’s manufacturing industry form a united approach to create sustainable employment opportunities by working with Government to identify ‘collective’ key manufacturing capability within Australia’s major manufacturing regions, and coordinate that capability to supply Government procurement needs on a commercial basis.

“Working together to identify gaps in existing Australian capability, and then developing employment strategies to ensure that practical and accessible government assistance programs are available for all manufacturers to assist them address any current gaps will further drive innovation and the long term sustainability of Australian manufacturing,” Joss added.

SEMMA is an independent association that represents a diverse range of manufacturers located in Melbourne’s south east who provide both local and international customers with world leading products and services.

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend