Clothing manufacturers warned that Diggers might end up wearing foreign-made uniforms if the Federal Government continues its policies of supporting cheap imports as opposed to domestic produce.
The complaints coming from Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia have prompted the Senate to launch an inquiry into Commonwealth procurement practices, with other groups and unions also demanding fairer go for local businesses bidding work, reports The West Australian.
Australian paper manufacturers told the inquiry that bureaucratic penny pinching had led to Federal department procuring 55% of their copying paper from Asia and Europe.
The Australian Industry Group said the Government should look at the bigger picture and stop its instant short-term saving practices and support local businesses in an increasingly difficult economic climate.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions said the Government should only award contracts for obtaining goods from overseas when there is hard evidence that they are unavailable domestically.
The textile council pointed out that the US military was obligated to use the services of local providers irrespective of perceived cost and that supply channels must be recognized as a matter of national security.
The council’s submission stated that even though Australian Defence had decided clothing manufacturing was a priority industry to remain in Australia, business investment could be easily undermined by a decision to choose a cheaper import.
“There is a risk that we spend a lot of money developing capability in Australia and then it loses out to a price and quality inferior item from overseas,” the submission said.
The council also complained about a requirement for companies to be audited by the textile workers union to show they were “ethical manufacture” to be eligible for Federal contracts, while overseas suppliers were exempt from this requirement.
The Finance Department defended the policy of not preferencing Australian goods saying that the sole purpose of the policy was to achieve optimal value for taxpayers.
According to its submission, the Government had bought roughly 93% of services from Australian suppliers totalling $60.2 billion over the past three financial years, with 60% of goods also coming from Australian suppliers for a total of $28.7 billion.