Comment by Peter Roberts
It is infuriating that it has taken dire and deadly necessity to make politicians in Canberra wake up to the wisdom of buying locally when they spend taxpayer dollars.
For decades leaders in Canberra have more or less – more in the case of the coalition and less in the case of Labor – trotted out the World Trade Organisation as an excuse for why tthey cannot mandate some local content in their purchases.
The mantra was buying the cheapest off the shelf product that does the job, and paying lip service to building up local capabilities so our companies could compete with imports.
The Army buying boots from Indonesia is a sad example, or Defence flirting with buying bullets on the open market rather than contracting to make them here. (That would be handy in a war.)
Now it is not through leadership at a national level but through the sheer necessity forced on us by Covid-19 that the federal government is talking about some sort of local preferencing to build local capabilities.
In an interview with AFR.com, Industry Minister Karen Andrews said the coronavirus pandemic had exposed specific areas of need which required special attention.
She said: “Governments historically don’t like to pick winners.
“But there are pretty critical industries emerging that we can build on.”
It has always been possible to use procurement policy within WHO rules for essential and strategic purposes and the government now says it will do just that.
Andrews said: “We will use procurement as a real option going forward.”
This is the way policy is made in Australia – politicians stick to some obscure policy line that makes no real sense…and only change if absolutely forced by circumstances to do so.
Yes it is infuriating, but it has happened.
Australian companies should now have a real chance of their government buying from them.
Picture: Armoured vehicles at Thales Bendigo
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