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Thursday, 20 November 1986
Page: 2601

Senator ELSTOB —Is the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce satisfied with the number of government contracts currently being awarded to local industry, particularly in the light of the present buy Australian campaign? How much credence can the Minister give to the allegation made recently by the Chairman of the Australian Science and Technology Council of `deeply entrenched attitudes in the bureaucracy opposed to the purchasing of Australian products'? What action is open to the Government to ensure that local industry maximises its chances of attaining government contracts?

Senator BUTTON —This question is couched in simple terms but it is a very complex question. Let me say first of all that I have not been satisfied with the numbers and extent of government contracts which have been awarded to local industry. However, there are many reasons for that. Sometimes the reasons are associated with poor quality or poor price competitiveness of locally produced goods. However, I also think there is a series of bureaucratic reasons why more local industry involvement is not present in government contracts, reasons associated with the way tenders are let, reasons associated with specifications for government contracts, and reasons associated with the lead times involved in letting government contracts.

Senator Elstob in his question asked whether there are deeply entrenched attitudes which militate against local industry involvement in government contracts and my answer is that I suspect there are a wide variety of circumstances. It was because of these concerns that the Government appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Brian Inglis to look at government purchasing procedures, particularly in the high technology area associated with computer purchases and things of that kind. I think that committee was appointed in July and it will report next month. I would not in any way wish to pre-judge the findings of the committee. But when that report is available I believe the Government will have something on which it can take action in respect of the entrenched attitudes to which Senator Elstob refers.