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Federal Government announces measures to encourage local content on major projects

The federal government announced its plan to boost local participation in major projects, funded by a cut in R & D tax concessions to Australia’s biggest companies.

The government announced its Plan For Australian Jobs over the weekend, applying to projects worth $500 million and above.

The Australian Financial Review and others report that under the Australian Jobs Act, projects worth $500 million or more require a company to prepare an Australian Industry Participation Plan, and projects over $2 billion will mean a company would have to employ Australian Industry Opportunity Officers in their global supply chain.

Prime Minister announced the policy in Melbourne yesterday, saying that it would assist a manufacturing industry under pressure from factors including the strong Australian dollar.

"We can continue to be a manufacturing nation, we can be a nation in which people make their living through blue-collar jobs that aren't intermittent or insecure or low paid, blue-collar jobs that are highly skilled and highly paid,” she said in the announcement, reported by the ABC.

"But we aren't going to get there by accident. We have to make sure that we shape that future."

The Australian reports that the AMWU supports the plan, which is part of the government’s industry and innovation statement, also including plans to boost the commercialisation of research through a network of Innovation Hubs.

Yesterday’s industry statement was estimated to be worth $1 billion over four years, to be funded by a cut in the research and development tax concessions applying to the biggest Australian companies.

"This will affect around 20 very large businesses – fewer than 1 per cent of all companies who get R&D tax incentives today,” Gillard said.

"However, this will save over $1bn from 2014 to 2017 – funds we can plough into new innovation in the businesses who are the drivers of future Aussie jobs – small and medium enterprises.”

The opposition and some in business were critical of the announcement, claiming that it would affect business confidence.

Mitch Hooke of the Minerals Council of Australia said it would, “add to concerns of international investors regarding the stability and predictability of Australia's taxation arrangements."

The opposition’s industry minister Sophie Mirabella was also critical, blasting the cut to research concessions.
"If we are going to be smart, if we are gong to be innovative, we can't keep chopping and changing and reducing access to the R&D incentives," she told AAP.

Gillard is expected to say more about the plan at the Australian Workers Union national conference today.


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