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19 February 2013 | Anna Reynolds
The Australian government will provide AUS$1 billion (£667 million) to support small firms and increase the competitiveness of domestic businesses when bidding for major contracts.
The move is part of A Plan for Australian Jobs, which aims to create business opportunities for Australian SMEs. Announcing the plan in Melbourne on Sunday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said: “Our plan will give Australian firms a fair chance to win work on major resources and infrastructure projects, improving their opportunities to gain the experience, scale and business connections needed to successfully become part of global supply chains.”
Gillard identified the challenges facing Australian businesses including increased global competition and the high Australian dollar, but added there are “tremendous opportunities from the growth of Asian economies”.
The three key strategies include backing Australian industry to win more work at home, supporting domestic firms to win new business abroad and helping small businesses to grow and create jobs. To help achieve the first target, a new Australian Industry Participation Authority will be set up to help firms build the connections needed to win work on major projects.
The government will also introduce legislation for projects worth more than AUS$500 million (£334 million) to give local industry greater opportunities to bid. On projects worth more than $2 billion (£1.3 billion), companies will have to employ Australian Industry Opportunity Officers, who will champion and support domestic businesses.
Reforms to the anti-dumping regime - where cheaper goods are imported from abroad - will also provide stronger protection for Australian industry against unfair competition from overseas
To boost the chances of companies to win new business abroad the government will invest more than AUS$500 million (£334 million) in establishing up to 10 ‘Industry Innovation Precincts’ to bring together firms, research institutions, technology experts and business service providers. The first two precincts will be in manufacturing and food, and will work to drive business innovation and growth to boost Australian competitiveness. Further, a new ‘Industry Innovation Network’ will allow regional businesses around Australia to gain access to knowledge, partnerships and services.
In addition, a new AUS$350 million (£234 million) tranche of the Innovation Investment Fund, where the government provides investment that is matched by the private sector, will help to stimulate private investment in Australian start-up companies. Another new initiative, ‘Growth Opportunities and Leadership Development’ will provide direct support for SMEs and the Enterprise Connect programme for small firms will be extended to more manufacturing firms and new sectors, including transport and logistics. In the public sector, a scheme will help small businesses become better equipped to win work through public tenders.