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WA support for SMEs lauded

WESTERN Australia's move to help small to medium-sized enterprises compete for work in major projects and markets has been applauded by the Australian Steel Institute.

WA support for SMEs lauded

ASI state manager James England said the new Industry Facilitation and Support Program, which offers dollar-for-dollar financial assistance up to $A25,000 for companies in the manufacturing and service sectors, had the potential to assist local steel fabricators.

The ASI has been a long-standing advocate of local fabricators' efforts to win jobs from major resource projects, claiming that more than 90% of fabricated steel used for WA's major resource projects were sourced overseas.

"While initial funding has gone to engineering and construction firms, we are optimistic future funding will go to assisting local steel fabricators compete for work on WA's major resources projects," England said.

However, he noted the state could still take a number of steps to secure more work for local fabricators, one of which was committing to making the WA Industry Participation Plans public to match the federal government's commitment to make all Australian Industry Participation Plans public following the recent Jobs Forum.

England said the WA government had further opportunities in the form of the Wheatstone and Browse LNG projects to take stronger action on local content.

"With [Premier Colin] Barnett about to bring a state agreement for Wheatstone to Parliament, we will be looking for much stronger local content provisions than in previous state agreements, to ensure more engineering and fabrication work flows to businesses from this project."

He also accused resource project operators of inflating their local content performance by including expenditure on items such as earthworks, travel, accommodation, communications and entertainment.

"While this expenditure is welcome, it will not build economic capacity or develop skills that can be used to develop new industries and jobs beyond the boom."

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