New policy chips away at WA contracts

Ben Wyatt at the NAIDOC Perth Awards. Photo by Trevor Walley.

Western Australia is moving to increase the economic participation of Aboriginal people in the state with its first Aboriginal Procurement Policy.

WA Finance and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt, who became Australia’s first Indigenous treasurer in March, announced the policy on Tuesday this week.

Under the policy, WA government departments will be required to award one percent of contracts to registered Aboriginal businesses from July 1.

The target will rise to two percent on July 1 2019 and three percent on July 1 2020.

The targets will apply to all government agencies and government trading enterprises when purchasing goods, services, community services and works.

At the end of each financial year, there will be a report card issued on each agency’s progress.

“The State Government is a major employer, investor, and purchaser of goods and services in WA and it can leverage these roles to create opportunities for contracting with Aboriginal businesses,” Mr Wyatt said.

“The benefit of contracting with Aboriginal businesses can extend beyond the successful delivery of contracts by not only improving the economic prosperity of those involved in the Aboriginal business but the broader Aboriginal community as a whole.”

Mr Wyatt told NIT Aboriginal businesses were currently estimated to be awarded just over one percent of government contracts in the state.

But he said the figure was heavily influenced by just a couple of agencies.

He said he wanted to see a spread across all agencies.

Mr Wyatt said the State Government-owned power company Horizon Power and the public housing sector were two examples of agencies that were working well with Aboriginal contractors.

Other departments had room for improvement.

“I think overall the government needs to improve,” he said. “This is the purpose of that policy.”

Mr Wyatt said he hoped the policy would build on the capacity and capability of Aboriginal businesses in WA.

The Department of Finance will begin work on helping to introduce the policy from early next year.

It is also set to host an Aboriginal Business Expo in March that will showcase the range of Aboriginal goods and services available and strengthen relationships with government buyers.

Mr Wyatt said Aboriginal businesses in WA ran the gamut, but there was a heavy concentration in the mining sector and a growing and vibrant presence in tourism and hospitality.

“I’m very excited by this policy,” he said.

Mr Wyatt said the policy was a WA Labor Party commitment in the lead-up to the March state election, which it won in a landslide victory.

A Commonwealth Indigenous Procurement Policy was introduced in July 2015 and has a three percent target for all Commonwealth contracts by the year 2020.

The Commonwealth target for the 2017-2018 financial year is two percent of all domestic contracts.

Wendy Caccetta

reporter@nit.com.au

 



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