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Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Page: 9637

Indigenous Affairs

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:57): My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Scullion. Can the minister update the Senate on the success of the coalition government's Indigenous Procurement Policy and advise how the policy is creating jobs and supporting businesses in regional and remote areas?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:57): First of all, I thank Senator Williams and acknowledge his longstanding role as a champion of Indigenous constituents across regional New South Wales. Our government's Indigenous Procurement Policy is driving Indigenous jobs and economic growth right across the country. The Indigenous Procurement Policy has gone from just over $6.2 million in 2012-13 under those opposite to $598 million in the first two years of our policy. Under the former policies there were just a handful of Indigenous businesses; under our policy there's 956 Indigenous businesses, winning 4,880 contracts across the country. This includes almost 1,400 contracts awarded to Indigenous businesses in Senator Williams's home state of New South Wales worth over $176.6 million. That means that in New South Wales alone, the number of contracts that have been awarded is 28 times that awarded across the country under the policies of those opposite.

This has been a boon for communities across New South Wales, especially in regional areas where our policies of decentralisation are intersecting with our Indigenous Procurement Policy. Take, for example, the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority Australia—APVMA—which, unfortunately, the Labor Party has opposed at every step. This will deliver fantastic new jobs for the region and, through our Indigenous Procurement Policy, I'm pleased to advise a local Indigenous business has won a $114,000 contract for the schematic design, architectural and engineering components for the new fit-out. You see, that's what those opposite just don't get. It's why the people of New England returned Mr Joyce in a landslide, the highest swing to a sitting MP since 1911.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, a supplementary question.

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:59): I thank the minister for that good news. Can the minister explain why it is important that the Commonwealth's procurement policy maximises local business participation, including among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:59): In the coalition, we understand it's not only about spending more but it's also about spending smarter, so that's what we've done under the Indigenous Procurement Policy. It's a smarter way to save the Commonwealth's very significant spend on goods and services.

Senator Cameron: Smarter than the LNP together.

Senator SCULLION: Well, it is smart. When we came to government we were 100 times more likely to employ an Indigenous person in an Indigenous businesses than in mainstream businesses. We knew we could grow the sector. If we grow the sector, we get many more Indigenous Australians into work, and that's exactly what's happening. We're not just spending the money because more contracts don't actually fit the bill. They still have to demonstrate value for money. We're ensuring the contracts are awarded where they have the maximum impact, so, instead of giving contracts to large multinational companies like those opposite do, we spend on our local communities. We grow jobs, we grow businesses and we go our— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, a final supplementary question.

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (15:00): Can the minister advise what other benefits the Indigenous Procurement Policy has delivered since it commenced in 2015?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (15:01): The Indigenous Procurement Policy is driving employment and participation. Almost all of the 956 new businesses who have won contracts, have won government contracts for the first time. This is their very first opportunity. They've got an average workforce of over 40 per cent. Given the Indigenous population makes up three per cent of the workforce, it means that we are now employing Indigenous jobseekers at 13 times the rates available in the workforce. Our IPP has been a complete game changer for Indigenous communities and it's leading to a new generation of Indigenous entrepreneurs.

In the last census we saw a 30 per cent increase in Indigenous businesses and only a one per cent increase in mainstream businesses. That's an absolutely outstanding result that shows the Indigenous Entrepreneurs Package, which the coalition took to the last election and which includes the Indigenous Procurement Policy at its centrepiece, is working and delivering for our first Australians.

Senator Brandis: Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.