Townsville watch­ing for lo­cal con­tent

Townsville Bulletin - - OPINION -

THEY say when it comes to the me­dia, lo­cal con­tent is king.

Well when it comes to big pro­jects in Townsville, the very same thing could be said. But Townsville has been re­peat­edly robbed in the con­struc­tion of in­fra­struc­ture in our re­gion.

It’s an in­dus­try stitch- up that leaves lo­cal work­ers and firms in the cold and on the bones of their be­hinds. This is how it tra­di­tion­ally works. Politi­cian an­nounces big ( in­sert road, bridge, school, hos­pi­tal build­ing) for our city, promis­ing mil­lions of dol­lars worth of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and ( in­sert num­ber) jobs. The ten­der goes out and, be­cause of the size of the pro­ject, it is de­ter­mined that only so- called Tier One firms can com­pete to run it.

These Tier One firms, which are enor­mous multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions based in a cap­i­tal city far from here, prom­ise to em­ploy lo­cals and use lo­cal con­trac­tors. But they also have ar­range­ments with build­ing unions else­where around the coun­try. And they don’t want any in­dus­trial trou­ble there.

So of course they strike a deal with the said union, known as an En­ter­prise Bar­gain­ing Agree­ment, which guar­an­tees all work­ers must be­long the union and re­ceive a range of gen­er­ous work con­di­tions. So, with their labour bill much steeper than oth­er­wise an­tic­i­pated, they ei­ther hire sub­con­trac­tors they al­ready have cosy re­la­tion­ships with in the cap­i­tal city or they squeeze lo­cal out­fits so hard they end up with next to no mar­gin. As a re­sult, the pro­ject be­comes a fly- in, fly­out af­fair with next to no ben­e­fits for us.

How do they get away with it? Be­cause un­der our lu­di­crous de­vel­op­ment laws, lo­cal is de­fined as any­where in Aus­trala­sia. You could be based in Welling­ton and be de­liv­er­ing lo­cal con­tent! Lo­cal busi­ness ti­tan Brad Webb has to­day called out this farce with his de­fence of Townsville’s steel firms in re­la­tion to the CBD sta­dium pro­ject.

So far, the sta­dium’s lead con­trac­tor Wat­pac, which it must be said has a strong record of sup­port­ing this city, has made all the right noises about de­liv­er­ing lo­cal con­tent.

Suf­fice to say Townsville will be hold­ing them to their word.

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