The Queensland Government is calling for industry feedback as it works to develop a new Queensland Small Business Procurement Commitment, aimed at giving smaller players a greater chance to compete for government contracts.
The Queensland Government revealed in July last year that, from September 2017, it would narrow its procurement net, including for IT products and services, to heavily favour suppliers within the state.
The announcement, detailing the so-called “Buy Queensland” initiative, came after Cabinet agreed the State Government would no longer be constrained or bound by free trade agreements that have seen jobs go off-shore or interstate.
“We will ignore restrictions that go against our interests,” the state’s Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said at the time.
The initiative sees a “local supplier” defined as a business that maintains a workforce within a 125km radius of where the goods or workers are needed.
Currently, the Australia-New Zealand Government Procurement Agreement defines “local” as anywhere in Australia and New Zealand.
The initiative also requires at least one local or regional supplier, and one other Queensland based business, to be invited to quote or tender for every procurement opportunity offered, regardless of Australia’s existing trade agreements.
The state government’s Queensland Procurement Policy 2017 was drawn up to provide the framework with which to maximise the benefits of its annual procurement investment.
The government also has in place procurement-related policies aimed at supporting small business. These include the Queensland Charter for Local Content, ICT SME Participation Scheme Policy and the Queensland Indigenous (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Procurement Policy.
Now, the state government is moving to give small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) greater opportunities to increase their public sector procurement capability and competitiveness.
Queensland Minister for Employment and Small Business Shannon Fentiman said the state government wants feedback from small businesses to ensure they can take full advantage of the Buy Queensland policy and take part in the government procurement processes.
“We want to support Queensland businesses by opening up opportunities for them to participate in the government’s multi-billion-dollar investment in goods and services,” she said.
It is thought that the proposed Queensland Small Business Procurement Commitment would make it easier for smaller businesses to access government procurement opportunities, tap into business growth and increased training opportunities, contribute to economic growth and develop innovative solutions for government.
A consultation paper released by the state government to inform the development of the Queensland Small Business Procurement Commitment outlines three focus areas it plans to draw on to achieve its plans to boost small businesses’ involvement in public sector procurement activities.
These include a government commitment to creating opportunities for Queensland small businesses to participate in government procurement and building the capacity of small businesses and government agencies through training, the provision of quality advice and encouraging closer collaboration to build relationships and understanding.
They also include a move to make it easier for small businesses to do business with government by simplifying access, documentation and contract terms and conditions for small businesses competing for public sector contracts.
Industry has until 31 July to provide feedback on the consultation paper.
The fresh focus on small business comes as Queensland’s Treasurer Jackie Trad hands down the state’s 2018-2019 Budget, with a commitment of $15 million in its IndustryTech fund to back projects that develop and deploy technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and big data.
Altogether the state government's budget, handed down on 12 June, sees the government invest a further $50 million in its Advance Queensland initiative in a bid to position Queensland as a world leader in artificial intelligence and robotics, bringing the initiative’s total funding to $650 million.
The Budget also revealed a further $40 million over two years to continue the Business Development Fund program, which involves investment by the state government in innovative businesses from a range of segments, including information technology.