By ERWIN CHLANDA
The NT Government will let contracts for maintenance and repairs of remote dwellings on racial grounds.
“Procurement for future contracts will focus on maximising Aboriginal businesses, based locally, where possible,” states an email to contractors from an assistant director of the Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities, Brenna Toner, on March 15.
A copy of the email, apparently sent to all qualifying tradies, was leaked to the News by a contractor wishing not to be named, but who predicts a loss of $1m and sacking of several staff.
The contractor says the “panel” arrangement will mean tenders will be sought only from Aboriginal owned business: “The non-Aboriginal industry will not even know the work is available.”
The contractor has no objection to work being offered on the same conditions to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal businesses.
Those based in bush communities would clearly have an advantage because they would not need to include travel time in their price.
According to the contractor the government has not sought comment from the industry and is giving no meaningful notice as usually no tenders are let after March, except for emergencies.
The contractor says the Anti-discrimination Act 1992 (NT) apparently offers no recourse against the government’s move, stating: “A person may discriminate against a person in a program, plan or arrangement designed to promote equality of opportunity for a group of people who are disadvantaged or have a special need because of an attribute.”
The News is seeking comment from Minister Chansey Paech.
PHOTOS: Damaged and neglected appliances in bush home.
Minister for Remote Housing and Town Camps Chansey Paech provided the following statement:
Our Government is committed to building the capacity of remote communities and improving the future of our most vulnerable Territorians.
To this end, the Territory Labor Government is supporting Aboriginal Business Enterprises and implementing Local Decision Making initiatives towards ceding decision-making powers and service delivery to remote communities.
This includes government contracting opportunities that support Aboriginal businesses and employment and increase regional economic development.
Minister Paech says further a focus on having the works delivered by local Aboriginal Business Enterprises (ABEs) where possible doesn’t preclude the organisations in question [other contractors] from partnering with the Aboriginal Business Enterprise or from sub-contracting to provide support, mentoring and training.
“We need jobs out on country to give people a reason to be out on country and be part of developing their communities,” says Mr Paech.