Australians often hear the words – ‘buy local, think global’.
Across the country, we go out of our way to patronise local businesses, knowing we are supporting the jobs of our friends, neighbours and others in the community.
It’s a case of feathering our own nest.
The federal government should take the same approach.
Over the past three years the Commonwealth spent nearly $200 billion on goods and services.
We buy everything from medicine to military supplies, trains to telephones, steel to electric vehicle chargers.
But too often, we buy them from overseas.
Australia has an abundance of talent, resources and innovation.
What we need is a government prepared to get behind our businesses and our workers so we meet more of our own needs and create a future made in Australia.
That’s why a federal Labor government will implement a 10-point Buy Australian plan to harness the purchasing power of government in our national interest.
Large government contracts go to the construction sector every year. Typically they go to large overseas-based companies.
I want to see more Australian companies having the chance to bid for the billions of dollars of work in communities right across Australia and empower them to grow and hire more local workers to deliver these major projects.
A Labor government would work with state governments to break these mega-projects into smaller chunks, where it makes sense to do so, to open the door to small- and medium-size businesses keen for a slice of the work.
Buy Australian Act
We will make changes in the heart of government decision making to solidify our commitment to buying Australian.
We’ll legislate to entrench supporting local businesses by creating a Buy Australian Act.
We’ll establish a Future Made in Australia office within the Department of Finance to ensure that government departments prioritise local suppliers wherever it is feasible.
We’ll reinforce the Buy Australia discipline in our own cabinet with a cabinet subcommittee on procurement led by the Finance Minister and Minister for Industry.
They will have to assure cabinet that when major spending decisions are taken, full consideration has been given to the ability of local industry to do the job.
To get states and territories on board, Labor’s Buy Australian policy will also apply to the $20 billion a year the Commonwealth spends in conjunction with the states through national agreements.
Labor is always on the side of workers. It’s in our DNA.
That’s why a Labor government would push to increase job security for Australians by insisting that suppliers to government are fair with their employees and do not engage in wage theft or the use of dodgy labour hire arrangements.
Likewise, we’ll require that the companies with which the government does business pay their fair share of tax.
If it is good enough for everyday workers, it’s good enough for businesses reaping the benefit of government contracts.
We’ll also prioritise Australian providers in Commonwealth spending on renewable energy projects, such as our $20 billion Rewiring the Nation project, which will connect new renewable energy sources to the national grid.
Labor will develop Future Made in Australia industry plans to build the capacity of local industry in areas including textile, clothing and footwear; digital, innovation and start-ups; paper, pulp and fibre and renewables component manufacture.
We’ll also have a Defence Industry Development Strategy that will put Australian workers and Australian security first, using $270 billion worth of defence spending to back local industry and bring more projects onshore.
Indeed, supporting Australian businesses will help them grow over time.
Getting this policy right will mean our homegrown companies can not only supply the needs of our government, but also expand to become exporters.
This is all about more jobs, more prosperity and a stronger Australian economy that will work to benefit more people in the recovery from COVID.
None of this is revolutionary. It’s just common sense.
Over the past two years the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the Australian economy, including our inability to meet many of our own needs in critical areas like manufacturing mRNA vaccines and basic medical goods.
As we rebuild from COVID, it is critical that we increase our sovereign capability instead of making ourselves hostages to precarious international supply chains.
Buying Australian is just one method a Labor government employ will reboot our national capacity to make things.
Another is the creation of our $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, which will help rebuild existing industries and create new ones in areas like value-adding manufacturing, medical supplies, defence and transport.
The aim is simple: We can build our own future.
In doing so we can create new industries, new opportunity and new jobs for millions of Australians.
Anthony Albanese is leader of the Australian Labor Party
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