PRIME MINISTER: It’s great to be back here. It’s been a while since we’ve had an opportunity to do this. And, so, it’s great for people to be coming back out again and getting around tables like this and and working together.
Securing Australia's economic recovery is our absolute mission focus. We’ve done, as a country, incredibly well through COVID, but it's come at a great cost and an enormous impact on our business community, particularly our small and medium-sized family business sector. And that’s, of course, the mainstay of Western Sydney.
There’s a lot going on out here though, there’s an enormous amount going on, whether it’s the airport, whether it’s the big defence contracts, whether it’s, you know, one of the biggest consumer economies in the country out here in Western Sydney. And, so, what we're very keen to continue to understand is how we can continue to fire up that business-led economic recovery out of COVID, keeping your taxes down, keeping your energy costs down, electricity bills down, ensuring that you’re getting the skills that you need and we’re making the investments, as we have been doing throughout COVID. We want to keep that going.
It's great to see the apprentices people are putting on. We were out there this morning at Baker and Provan and seeing that occurring, Mal’s here and, and how exciting that is to see that. The work is certainly coming back but I know there are real challenges in terms of you getting the people you need with the skills you need. That's true in the hospitality sector, it's right across the economy, and economies like Western Sydney will come back strongly, as I think you all know. Our challenge is to make sure we get over the supply side issues that means you can take advantage of that, of that recovery.
So, that's our focus, how we can get government more and more out of your way so you can get more and more in the front of where you want to take the Australian economy, and so, we can back you all in.
Something I announced today with Mal, a big part of what the Commonwealth is doing, in addition to what I’ve said on taxes and skills and infrastructure investments, getting energy costs down and increasingly, as you probably all know, keeping downward pressure on the interest rates, which we're seeing, sort of, movement on overseas, and that that only occurs, you know, if we’re getting our competitiveness right and and businesses are really leading the economy forward. So that's where we’re really focusing.
And with our contracts, we've got over half of the contracts by value that we spent money on as a Commonwealth Government last year, 54 per cent of the $18.7 billion we spent last year went to small and medium-sized enterprises, Australian small and medium-sized enterprises, right across the country. Now, that’s $5 billion up on the previous year.
And, so, we know we can play an important role - not only in making sure that we're giving the opportunity for small and medium sized businesses to be part of the Government contracting space, and that's included changes in the rules, which means you can do direct contracting in particular areas, I think it’s contracts up to $1 million. That is giving small and medium sized businesses a look in. Whereas before you were getting blocked out, and now you’re getting a look in. And that's what we want to continue to see happen with small and medium sized enterprises.
The other thing we can do as a major contractor in the economy is taking the lead on ensuring small and medium sized businesses get paid and they get paid on time, and on digital invoicing our rule is five days or less. Frankly, you should be instantaneous with large companies, and particularly the Government, particularly if you’re using the new payments platform and you're a digitised digital business. That should be one of the big advantages in the digital economy, is that you’re getting paid more quickly, not just by the Government, but all, all those you work with in small and medium sized businesses.
So, cash flow, training, costs, these are all, I'm sure important issues, and of course, making sure you're paying less tax, which we’ve certainly done. I'm keen to hear more about the feedback you've got and the challenges that you're seeing as we seek to work together to secure the economic recovery here in Western Sydney.
I should mention, manufacturing, just before I go. A million Australians now back working in manufacturing. We're making things in Australia and we're certainly making things here in Western Sydney. That's definitely true. We’re seeing the expansion of that. Last time I was out here it was out at Visy, and the major investments that are going into, business, and that's really exciting. So the investment’s coming in, whether it's in recycling or new clean energy technologies, batteries, traditional metals, and so on. All of this is happening. Manufacturing is a huge part of our economic recovery, because it flows into so many other sectors. It leads to technology, it leads to people, it leads to innovation, and we need to ensure particularly the University of Western Sydney is really plugged into that collaboration with the ecosystem here in Western Sydney. So, with that, I'll stop talking and I'll let you guys fill me in.