Local focus in new Labor procurement plan

Labor leader Bill Shorten is offering a leg up for small businesses with a new procurement policy.
Labor leader Bill Shorten is offering a leg up for small businesses with a new procurement policy.

Local companies would be given much more direct support to win government contracts and major projects under a new procurement policy announced by Labor Leader Bill Shorten.

Mr Shorten is concerned the federal government is spending $50 billion on goods and services every year, but too much of the money is going to multinational companies.

He fears too many of the global giants lock locals out of work by bringing in their own suppliers and fail to pay tax in Australia.

"Labor believes that if local small and medium businesses can do the job competitively, then the job should be done locally," Mr Shorten said on Monday.

"If bidders on large government contracts can't show how they'll support competitive local business and local jobs, then they shouldn't be getting contracts."

While value for money would still be the key criteria, a Labor government would require its departments to work with local firms that could benefit from taxpayer-funded contracts.

For projects over $10 million, Labor would require bidders to develop a plan for local jobs, engaging with small and medium businesses to raise awareness of upcoming tenders and subcontracting opportunities.

Public and large private projects over $250 million would have to ensure local firms were provided with a fair opportunity to win work.

They would also be compelled to put in place an "Australian Industry Participation" plan to open up opportunities for jobs in key sectors such as rail and steel.

Labor would demand one in 10 workers on major projects were apprentices from the local area.

"This announcement is all about supporting local businesses and local jobs," Mr Shorten said.

"Labor understands the power of government procurement and major projects to deliver economic benefits for communities outside the major capital cities."

Australian Associated Press