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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 1457 ..

Federal Government Contracts

MR HIRD: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister, Mrs Carnell. It relates to how local businesses have performed in winning their share of Federal Government contracts. Chief Minister, given the increasing trend by the Commonwealth towards outsourcing, can you advise the parliament how our local business sector has fared over the past two years?

MS CARNELL: Thank you very much, Mr Hird. I do thank you for the question. Mr Speaker, we all know that governments, local, State and Federal, not just in Australia but all around the world, are opening up more and more of their businesses and their service requirements to the marketplace. This has certainly been the case with the current Federal Government, which soon after it was elected in 1996 announced its intention to outsource a much greater share of its business.

Many people in this place expressed concern about that, as did we. The challenge that has been faced by every Canberra business on how best to cope with this changing environment has been real. The challenge has been to meet the requirement for competition in the supply of goods and services to Federal agencies whereas in the old days Commonwealth departments used to ring up a few suppliers and ask them to put a bid forward and they would get the business. Those days are certainly gone. With the advent of the Internet and revised purchasing policy, every agency is seeking to maximise its opportunities to obtain the lowest possible price and at the same time the highest possible quality and reliability. That means real competition from Commonwealth businesses, from every State around Australia, from businesses both here in Australia and offshore - huge amounts of competition for our local businesses.

Mr Speaker, the ACT Government too has done what it can and played our part in helping local businesses to adjust to this new environment. In fact, I would have to say that everybody has done what they could, except possibly those opposite, who have just been negative. Mr Speaker, you would recall that we set up the ACT Supplier Development Committee to maximise the potential benefits to local firms from Commonwealth Government outsourcing programs generally. We established CanDeliver in partnership with the private sector. We encouraged businesses bidding for government work to relocate to Canberra to ensure that they were employing people here in the ACT. This Government has also undertaken many other initiatives too numerous to spend time here today talking about. Mr Speaker, I would have to say that just about every one of those initiatives has been opposed by those opposite.

I would like to come back to Mr Hird's question. How have ACT businesses fared? To answer that, I can refer to an article which appeared in the Business Review Weekly earlier this month. The article by Robert Skeffington provided information about who won Federal Government contracts in 1996-97 and how much the business was worth. I have to say that I was both surprised and absolutely delighted and proud, because, according to the article, in 1996-97 businesses in the ACT were awarded 32,351 contracts. That was second in number only to New South Wales. Most importantly,

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