Opposition leader Bill Shorten is making a play for the hearts and minds of small business owners, saying Labor will make it easier for them to pitch for their share of over $50 million worth of government contracts should Labor win the next federal election.
Shorten has promised to overhaul procurement laws to allow local operators a better chance of securing contracts.
“Labor believes that if local, small and medium businesses can do the job competitively, then the job should be done locally,” Shorten said.
The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), Kate Carnell, has welcomed the announcement, suggesting it’s a great opportunity for the nation’s SMBs.
“This is great news for the small business sector, considering the percentage of government procurement by SMEs has declined over the past four years,” Carnell said.
“Small businesses tell us every day they don’t want handouts; they want work. A commitment by the Labor party to ensure that SMEs get their fair share of work is a step in the right direction.”
Shorten’s plan is not a new one, with previous governments attempting to open the doorway to more contract work for small businesses. Carnell stresses in order for the Labor party’s plan to succeed it will require real targets to be set to ensure SMB’s are engaged.
“The experience to date is that unless governments regularly audit contracts to ensure large companies and multinationals have delivered on their promise to engage small business, it regularly doesn’t happen,” says Carnell.
“The other issue that needs addressing is to ensure big businesses don’t ‘screw’ SMEs in the supply chain by reducing the amount paid to small businesses and lengthening payment times. We see this all the time.”
The ASBFEO says she supports the Plan for Local Jobs, particularly local labour-market testing and the on-the-ground contact for engagement with SMEs.
“We also welcome efforts to increase apprenticeships and traineeships so SMEs have access to well-trained people in their local communities to grow their businesses.
“SMEs are the engine room of Australia’s economy; where jobs are created and we are pleased to see Labor recognising this.”