Questions regarding Indigenous Business

Senator McGRATH: My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Scullion. Will the minister advise the Senate how the government is supporting the economic development of Indigenous businesses?

Senator SCULLION: I thank the senator for the question. The government has a vision for a vibrant and diverse Indigenous business sector but Indigenous businesses currently only secure a very small amount of government business—far less than one per cent of it, or about $6.2 million out of $39 billion in annual spending. There are so many Indigenous companies capable of supplying services to the Commonwealth and winning a much greater share of government work. So the government has set a target that three per cent of Commonwealth contracts will be with Indigenous businesses by 2020. This equates to about 1,500 contracts a year. In dollar terms, this will be around $135 million a year based on the average contract value of some $90,000. This is a massive increase in the government's current Indigenous procurement spend, and the potential to grow is unlimited.

For certain Commonwealth contracts agencies will have to check whether an Indigenous small or medium enterprise can deliver goods and services on a value-for-money basis before they make a general approach to the market. Before making an approach to the market the Commonwealth has to demonstrate that there are no Indigenous businesses available. Certain larger contracts will also include mandatory minimum Indigenous employer and supplier use. Each minister and each agency head will be accountable for achieving the target, and performance will be published annually for the whole of the Commonwealth and portfolio by portfolio. Whether through direct contracts or as part of the supply chain, this policy will ensure that Indigenous businesses are showcasing the products that they have to offer. Indigenous businesses are also more likely to be employers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by a factor of about 10. So it is natural that, as more Commonwealth procurement is won by Indigenous businesses, more employment opportunities will be created for Indigenous people.

Senator McGRATH: Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the minister inform the Senate how Indigenous businesses can take advantage of the government's new Indigenous procurement policy?

Senator SCULLION: The government is working with Supply Nation, the Indigenous chambers of commerce and Indigenous Business Australia to ensure the Indigenous business sector grows. From 1 July Supply Nation, a not-for-profit organisation, will publish a free and central register of Indigenous businesses. The register will make it easier for government to contact Indigenous businesses about procurement opportunities. This is a list of organisations that previously you had to pay for to access. This reflects our commitment to removing red tape in this important area. The register of Indigenous businesses will contain more information about each supplier and will include businesses that are 50 per cent Indigenous owned. The process for Indigenous businesses to become certified will also be faster and less resource intensive. I take this opportunity to urge all Indigenous businesses to register with Supply Nation. It is free and it certainly will be great for engaging their business with the Commonwealth. (Time expired)

Senator McGRATH: Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Will the minister advise the Senate how Indigenous businesses can register with Supply Nation, and what are some of the other benefits?

Senator SCULLION: It is now going to be far easier for Indigenous businesses to register with Supply Nation. You simply go to the Supply Nation website and fill out a form that includes information about your location, your size, your capabilities and what type of business you are in. You just enter 'Supply Nation' into your search engine. Of course, Indigenous businesses do not have to source federal government business via the Supply Nation register. However, this register will make it much easier for government procurement officers to contact you. It is streamlined, it is free and, importantly, it is publicly available. On that note, I also urge private and non-government organisations to check out the register. You can do business with some great Australian organisations. And why wouldn't you want to do business with an Indigenous organisation? It makes great business sense. There is a huge amount of talent and great practice within the sector. (Time expired)