By ERWIN CHLANDA
The inclusion of apprentices and trainees, no matter of what race, in the Provisional Sum (PS) scheme would go a long way towards its acceptance by local industry.
That is the view of Ben Kittle (at right), chairman of the local branch of the Country Liberal Party, after attending yesterday’s public meeting with government officials. The scheme currently relates only to Indigenous people.
Meanwhile Neilia Ginnane (above, left), Executive Director NT of the Housing Industry Association, says her members are disappointed with the result of the meeting.
“Many questions were not answered,” she says.
“I’ll be meeting with Infrastructure Minister Peter Chandler in the next fortnight, to discuss how to achieve Indigenous outcomes that are effective, achievable, realistic and sustainable.”
Ms Ginnane says the PS issue “has been on the agenda for at least six months.
“We want to know whether the government is listening. There needs to be further consultation to review and improve this policy.”
Mr Kittle says although “more question time would have been better,” points made by local business people appear to have been taken on board by the officials.
The scheme provides for a bonus of 10% of a contract’s value if a quota of Indigenous companies and/or staff – 30% – is met.
The inclusion of non-Indigenous apprentices and trainees is yet to be confirmed.
Mr Kittle says the scheme needs to be transparent: For example, it needs to be made clear how it will be determined whether someone is or is not an Aboriginal, so the employers can take this into account in their recruitment.
Mr Kittle says: “The scheme needs to be fair across the board to builders, subcontractors and tenderers. They need to know exactly where they stand.”
He says at the moment it seems unclear whether tenderers should take PS into account in their price calculations.
Industry sources say if they do take PS into account and their claim for it is not granted, they will come up short.
If they don’t, they might be undercut on price by someone taking it into account and succeeding in getting it.
Asked whether the system could be rorted by Indigenous people starting a two dollar company and then entering into a joint venture with another firm to qualify for the subsidies, Mr Kittle says this is where transparency comes in: “What are the criteria for checking a company? How long has it been in business? Check their references.
“It’s very similar to standard tender scrutiny: Check references. Who is in the company? This is no different to assessments being made for normal tenders.”
Asked whether PS applicants would need to sack competent non-Indigenous staff and replace them with Indigenous staff who may be less skilled, Mr Kittle said: “I need to talk to a few people before I make up my mind on that. It would be good for the scheme to raise the skill level in the region by including trainees and apprentices.”
He also said he had no experience as a prime contractor applying for PC to make a comment on any ‘red tape’ in the scheme.
About suggestions that it would be hard to contest tenders that had been awarded, given that the judgment of the new elements to be considered is prone to being highly subjective, Mr Kittle said: “If 50% of the weighting is price then you know what’s important in the tender.
“But if company A puts on four labourers and company B two apprentices, who should get the job? That’s where the department must be clear.
“In my view improving the skill base here would come first.”
Will the scheme harm race relations?
“Good question. There are a lot of people involved, public servants and industries. What may work for one person may not for another.”
The bottom line, he says, is this: “We need to work towards a sustained workforce.”
By ERWIN CHLANDA