Members of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee met in Bendigo today as part of a number of Inquiries into the impact of Defence’s training activities and facilities on rural and regional communities.
The Committee has already held hearings in Port Augusta, Rockhampton, Townsville, Darwin and Katherine.
Committee Deputy Chair, Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie said the Inquiry has a particular reference to the economic, social and environmental impacts of Defence training activities and facilities on communities.
“It is important to get feedback about the effects these activities have on communities and we achieve that by hearing from local organisations or businesses.”
Senator McKenzie said that organisations appearing at the hearing were fulsome in their praise of Bendigo as an ideal place to do business.
“When defence manufacturing companies like Hofmann Engineering are saying Bendigo’s only 90 minutes from an airport, has cheap rent, access to the internet and is great to live in, it shows how much our regional areas can offer,” she said.
Senator McKenzie said there was a lot of Defence work on offer in the Bendigo region – citing the $90 million spent annually on procurement at Puckapunyal alone – but that local businesses didn’t know how to go about accessing it.
She also said the Committee heard from small businesses who had succeeded in supplying to Defence.
“We had a business association who told the Committee about a locksmith who started out 35 years ago, but couldn’t make his business viable,” Sen McKenzie said. “After finding the right people to talk to, he now spends up to 30 hours per week at Puckapunyal, so opportunities are certainly there,” she said.
Senator McKenzie said perceptions of red tape and slow payments acted as a disincentive, but that this was a common misconception.
“Local businesses have told us that one of the problems doing business with Defence is the time it takes to get payment for an invoice.
“Whilst it is government policy for payment to be turned around quickly, sometimes that does not happen and we want to ensure that is one of the changes that can be made between Defence and local contractors.
“Sometimes Defence seeks to engage a large contractor at a national level and leave it up to them.
“We want to make sure that the national contractors actually engage in local communities and communications between Defence and local communities improve.” Senator McKenzie said.
“The Committee will hand down Interim Reports after regional hearings, in this case Bendigo and after the hearing in Wodonga tomorrow.”
20 November 2017