On Thursday the 8th June the Whyalla Chamber of Commerce and Industry represented its members at the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. During this session the committee was tasked to hear submissions of impact, Defence Training Activities and Facilities have had on Rural and Regional Areas.
Further submissions were given by the three Upper Spence Gulf Councils, Regional Development Australia and the Upper Spencer Gulf Heavy Industry Cluster.
The Chambers submission to the enquiry included comment on Consultation and Communication by Defence Department; Environmental, Social issues and Economic issues; Investment in new Facilities Infrastructure and Operations as well as promoting and encouraging Awareness of Tendering Opportunities for Rural and Regional areas.
The Chambers submission was positive at the benefits that Defence Operation Hammel bought to local communities; reputed to be in excess of $2.7m.
With the announcement of the prime contractor for the first stage development of Cultana Reserve (St Hillier’s) the Chambers argument was to ensure that local contractors are involved wherever possible and share in the proposed $61M build.
To this end the Senate Committee were very surprised that the Chamber was already proactive in communications with St Hillier’s to offer assistance in matching local contractor capabilities to their needs. In the coming weeks it is expected St Hillier’s procurement officer will visit Whyalla and meet with appropriate contractors.
The Chambers aim is for at least 40% of the contract value be serviced by local contractors. This would be a boost for the local economy given the current economic state that it is facing.
At the conclusion of the first phase of the Cultana development, which will take around 18- 24 months to complete, the Defence has budgeted an additional $110m to be spent at Cultana. Future benefits for the Whyalla community will be the required ongoing maintenance..
The Chambers submission also concentrated on the communities wish to be a part of the ongoing Air Warfare Destroyer and Frigate build, due to begin in 2020. The barriers to entry into these contract opportunities are quiet daunting for small to medium size enterprises (SMEs) and it was strongly suggested some moderation of the requirements and regulations within the Defence Procurement policies be considered.
The Chamber also commented on the large number of Government agencies (Defence, Defence SA, Defence Teaming, Tech-port and CDIC) involved and resulting mixed messages circulating, with local operators confused in which agencies they should be dealing with.
At a forum held in Whyalla last month, the Chamber had previously advocated that a one stop shop approach was required, so communications can be clear and concise. The Chamber has been successful in achieving this, with the Department of State Development, since appointing a person to this role.
The Chamber executive look forward to seeing the tangible changes Government will make as a result of this enquiry and are confident that the suggested changes will allow more local SMEs to be a part of future Defence contracts.
It is acknowledged the road ahead will not be easy, and will challenge many SMEs. However the Chamber is committed to advocate for local business, and through membership communications along with the assistance of both the Federal and State Government, aim to help facilitate a path that will allow local business to be a part this exciting future.