Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced that major projects will be remain eligible for more than $6 billion in government grants under new rules designed to give more opportunities to Australian businesses.
Mining companies working on projects with a Commonwealth contribution of $20 million or more already need to provide detail on how much local product will be used in order to receive a tariff cut. The new rules will expand this requirement to any project receiving federal grants, including infrastructure projects.
“If you want Australian taxpayers’ dollars, then you’re going to have to give Australian businesses a fair chance to compete for work,” said Gillard.
The measures come in response to union claims that Australian businesses have missed out on work on major projects.
In particular, the new rules will assist the manufacturing industry, which has reduced its headcount by more than 50,000 employees in the past year due to the high Australian dollar and rising costs from the resources boom.
Unions have met the move with approval. “It fits exactly what we’ve been arguing for, that we want to maximise the benefit of this mining boom,” said Dave Oliver, national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.