THE WEST AUSTRALIAN
Monday, 18 February 2013 15:13
The mining industry has attacked the Gillard Government's plan to "embed" an official in big companies to pressure them to buy Australian materials.
Big business also criticised the government decision to remove research and development tax breaks worth about $1 billion, warning it would spook multinationals thinking of investing in Australia.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard unveiled a major jobs plan yesterday, offering hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to small business start-ups and putting rules in place to push big companies and project proponents to give more work to local companies.
Under one change, companies running projects worth $2 billion or more that apply for tariff concessions will have to employ what would be called an "Australian industry opportunity officer" to push for the company to buy local.
Minerals Council of Australia CEO Mitch Hooke said the proposal was uncalled for.
"The proposal to embed public servants inside companies is both unnecessary, unwarranted and inefficient," he said.
"Australian mining companies use more than 80 per cent local goods and services.
"We are already buying Australian when it makes good business sense to do so."
A spokeswoman for Industry Minister Greg Combet said the official would not be a public servant but an employee of the company.
She hoped it would mean big foreign companies investing in projects such as the oil and gas sector in WA would be required to employ a local to advocate on behalf of local businesses.
Under other reforms announced, the Government will legislate to require the proponents of projects worth $500 million to produce a plan showing how they would support local industry to win work.
More than $500 million will be spent in 10 "industry innovation precincts" around Australia that will bring the private sector together with experts from government agencies such as the CSIRO.
Unions broadly welcomed the plans, saying they should help spread the wealth created by big resources projects under way in WA and Queensland.
"It has long been a concern of the union movement that major resource and infrastructure projects do not even look at what they could source locally," ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said.
Pic: Minerals Council of Australia CEO Mitch Hooke.
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