I believe that New Zealand can only control its own future with strong, sustainable local industries. I would imagine that everyone reading this would agree, even if we don’t agree on how you get them.
Today I released the Kiwi Jobs Bill (PDF link), my first Private Members Bill which aims to maximise opportunities for competitive local businesses when tendering for large government projects.
The Bill establishes a Commission of Inquiry to compare government procurement policies in Australia and other comparable jurisdictions, to determine whether the NZ Government can have a policy that gives preference to local procurement without breaching our international trade obligations.
The Commission of Inquiry would have a deadline of six months to report to Parliament and the Minister for Economic Development would be required to decide within 30 days how its recommendations could be implemented.
New Zealand industries should be given the best possible chance of taking up new work within our shores by getting full, fair and reasonable opportunities to compete for tenders and major projects.
The Kiwi Jobs Bill is timely and important to provide encouragement and certainty to New Zealand industries that their skills and capabilities are important to our nation and our economic future.
Currently we have a situation with KiwiRail about to embark on a formal tender process to build 13 electric locomotives and 114 ‘cars’ for the electrification of Auckland rail.
Both KiwiRail and the government have ignored the strong independent economic case by reputable Berl Economics detailing the benefits of having Auckland’s new trains built in New Zealand, which could create up to 1275 new jobs.
It is currently unlikely that the tender document will contain a preference clause giving a stronger weighting to a build that includes Kiwi content.”
Most of our trading partners have clauses giving preference to local companies in tendering for government contracts
These government procurement policies recognise that value for money is about a broader economic benefit and not just about lowest price.
Many New Zealand industries would receive a boost from such a policy, including manufacturing, engineering and ICT.
The most pressing example is obviously KiwiRail’s Hillside and Woburn workshops, whose skills and capacity would be taken more seriously with preference given to local content, in building trains for Auckland.
If we want to build the NZ economy, and one of the main ways to do that is to ensure our local industries are given maximum opportunities to flourish.
Instead, will we see a situation where the National Government will accept only the lowest-cost bid, or a bid from a big overseas company writing Kiwi skills off as irrelevant and ignoring them.
National is reviewing its procurement policies, but the review appears more motivated by saving money than by maximising opportunities to local industry and thereby boosting our economy.
I think it’s time we gave ourselves a better chance. I hope you will support the Bill.