We are a lucky country with many natural advantages including abundant space, resourcefulness and imagination, but today we need courage to take nothing for granted.

Global trends, market forces and competition call for a different way of thinking. We need considered engagement and to be alert that our leadership and our national interests are aligned and that our resources and imagination are fully utilised.

The federal government is due to report on an inquiry into Commonwealth Procurement Rules (CPR). Every Australian taxpayer should be interested in the outcomes and final document that provides context and bears relevance on the spending of 25 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product.

The CPR and the resulting business activity, productivity, local participation and economic activity represent immense opportunity for Australian business in a digital and fiercely competitive international context. There is a critical balance to be found between creating barriers to trade and creating a level and fair marketplace. The CPR should go a long way in achieving this and when legislation was passed late last year Senator Nick Xenophon noted “This is a big deal. This is a massive change to procurement laws in this country.”

This massive change now calls for:

  • Evidence of Australian Standards and tenderers’ ability to meet them
  • Compliance with standards through evidence of certifications and audits
  • Consideration of tenderers’ practices regarding employment, OH&S and environmental regulations
  • Whole-of-life value for money and benefits to the Australian economy

At the same time in Canberra and in the media we have a public discussion about Australian values. Australian standards and values provide broader benefits to the Australian economy, supporting the national interest and even providing leadership beyond our borders. These values, codes and rules under which the governments spend and business operates and the public benefits are a big deal. The CPR provide a framework for the investment of our tax and the key opportunity for the government to practice what is preached.

Can we imagine this event may mark a point where Australian government spends to better support Australian public well-being and actions responsible common wealth procurement? To do so depends on a change to informing government, industry and the public about the new rules and how our representatives are spending our money in support our natural advantage.

New clauses of the CPR essentially address issues of quality, provenance and through life value. For example let’s take a simple product – imagine the humble incandescent light bulb. Is it made from metals and wire and glass or, in a digital context and connected economy, can we imagine capturing more value?

It is possible that at manufacture, we can capture and measure and value the origin of the sources of material, the energy used and the labour practice and well-being of workers who contributed, and then celebrate the intellect that brought all of this together. At use, we can measure the efficiency and longevity and emissions that are created as a result of use, the function and feature that support our quiet enjoyment and well-being in the built environment. And when the product is no longer needed or superseded or no longer functions, can we return those materials to the supply chain? Was the original product designed so that we can recover the embedded energy and raw materials and use them again?

The answers are yes, and having industry connected through the world wide web, capturing data at every point in the product’s life cycle and measuring the product and the service and the impact creates whole of life value and benefits to our economy.

This is the future of our built environment; interconnected, measured and valued.

Could some of our natural advantage now allow us to imagine, see, record and value the provenance of what is produced in this country and called for through government procurement?

Do we see a light bulb as just the service of providing illumination or is it something greater than some wire and glass that returns to the earth? Our future wellbeing demands that we value every element of the light bulb, the energy, material, intellect, labour and enterprise that brought it all together.

And this is what is supported through the CPR. The government wants to know the details of the goods and services they procure, and this presents deep and wide implications for our economy. We pay taxes, which the government spends for goods and services and provides these back to us. We can reasonably expect to also know where they came from. It adds layers of activity and will push innovation through the economy as business provides product, productivity, provenance and recovery.

The CPR create no barrier to trade but do provide value and advantage in meeting Australian standards. They are not exclusive or parochial but inclusive and open, consideration of our standards and whole of life value and provide a case study on which nations, regions and communities may adapt to limits of resource, constraints of emissions, waste and resources.

Can we imagine this nation-community advancing manufacturing, developing products and services and capturing value for a planet that is sustainable, contained and fair into the future?

If courage and imagination form the foundation of leadership, here’s hoping our elected representatives show plenty.