John Bowler: WA Government’s ‘buy local’ mantra deserves applause

John BowlerKalgoorlie Miner
Mark McGowan during his visit to Kalgoorlie.
Camera IconMark McGowan during his visit to Kalgoorlie. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian, Jackson Flindell

I was doubly pleased when Premier Mark McGowan selected Kalgoorlie-Boulder to announce an expansion of the State Government’s “buy local” policy.

Firstly, it will mean more State contracts will go to Goldfields-based companies and that is a good thing for local employment and the local economy.

Secondly, it shows that the Government is acutely aware of the importance the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder places on its own “buy local” policy.

Almost all regional councils — big and small — go out of their way to buy local but I’d like to think that under my period as mayor the City has emphasised the importance to buy local and has not only developed a strong policy but also lived by it day-to-day.

The percentage of services and goods the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder spends locally has increased dramatically in the past four years.

At the same time mining leaders have picked up on the mantra and almost every major company has publicly stated support for buying local.

One problem I’ve encountered is that sometimes mid-level management, who are often based in Perth, find it convenient to award contracts to Perth firms without any preference for Kalgoorlie-Boulder firms and thus going against the stated aims of their senior management.

When I raise complaints the better managers respond but it is an ongoing battle.

It’s one thing to talk about buying local but it’s another thing to do it; when sometimes it means the cheapest contract or tender is not accepted and you stick with the local tenderer, firm in your resolve that in the long-term you are doing the right thing, because of not only creating more jobs but also the after-sales service will be superior and cheaper.

Since the Premier’s announcement in Hannan Street I’ve written to him asking for local government to be given the same increase the State Government has given itself.

The two main changes announced when he flew in last week were that the preferential “allowance” that could be given to local contractors would be increased from five to 10 per cent and the total value could go from $250,000 to $500,000.

Local government is still restricted to the lower limits and my contention is that if it’s good for the State Government to have the increases then it must also be good for local government.

When announcing the changes the Premier said the new buy local policy was expected to create 3000 regional jobs and more than 200 apprenticeships in the first 12 months. I want our fair share of that and the capacity to further increase the City’s own buy local.

The only losers out of all this may be the odd Perth-based firm, and as was said in the movie Gone With The Wind: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

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