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Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Page: 9517

Ms CHESTERS (Bendigo) (13:24): I second the amendment. I'm pleased to support this amendment moved by my colleague, and to speak on the Government Procurement (Judicial Review) Bill 2017, because, as outlined, whilst it's not a controversial bill, it does give me an opportunity to talk about the role that government procurement can play in our country and, in particular, its importance to the regions.

As mentioned, this bill relates to the CPTPP, which we have just debated in this House. I again want to express my concern about that agreement. I really stress and push the government to consider what they are doing to ensure that we protect local manufacturing jobs, particularly in relation to procurement. Any government, federal or state, is a big procurer of services. In the past, we have seen more and more of those services and goods outsourced to overseas contractors. One example is defence uniforms. Combat uniforms are proudly manufactured in my electorate. ADA, Australian Defence Apparel, manufactures those uniforms. This secures about 100 high-skilled jobs in my electorate, predominantly for women, but, of course, they are on a lower pay scale when compared to other defence manufacturing industries. The dress uniforms contract came up under this government and, because of their procurement policies, that contract went overseas, to Vietnam. Even though it was ADA, this government did not go for the local procurement option; it went for the overseas procurement option. Overseas manufacturing is being brought in. If that contract had stayed in our country, and if that procurement contract had stayed in Bendigo, it would have created between 50 and 70 jobs in Bendigo or in Melbourne, where their other facility is located. That demonstrates how we as a country, and as a government, could use our purchasing dollar more effectively.

We as a country haven't yet worked out or valued what it means to have people employed. Other countries, particularly those in the TPP, have worked it out. They have worked out that, if you have local people working in local manufacturing, their wages stay in that region. Other countries have worked out that, if you have local businesses supplying into those supply chains, it benefits local economies. We're starting to get there, as a country, but we need to get there pretty quickly, because far too many of our local manufacturers are in competition with overseas manufacturers. At the moment, when this government compares contracts, it doesn't take into account the value of having local people employed in those jobs and the impact that has on local economies. It doesn't take into account the supply chain jobs. This bill gives us an opportunity to raise the importance of government procurement for our local regions. If we look at the supply chain, for example, paper and other forestry products, we could be sitting down with the timber industry and talking about how this government could be supporting this industry by ensuring that as much local content as possible—not just our paper but other wood and fibre products as well—is included in those contracts. When government focuses on securing as much local procurement as possible, those contracts become the foundation contracts for many of our small to medium-sized manufacturers, and it allows other industries to then seed off that. It becomes an ongoing, continuous contract, which gives them the certainty to keep their doors open.

This is why, when we start talking about being a global country and making sure that we are satisfying our obligations under the WTO, we really sell ourselves short there, particularly when we look at the illegal dumping that is going on in our country. A lot of our manufacturers say that, if we could we just get to WTO standards, it would give our industry more protection. The legislation that is before us will help in some way, but we need to do better. Illegal dumping—where really cheap product is dumped on markets—is economically driven and is designed to crash local product and local production, so that they can then up the price. This is occurring in our country.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour, when the member for Bendigo can seek continuation.