Industry to campaign to bring back govt print

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The AMWU, the PVCA, and Marvel Bookbinding and Print Finishing are joining forces to launch a campaign to call for all levels of government to immediately shift all the $150m+ printing it is sending overseas back to Australian print businesses.

Printing for Australia: China
Printing for Australia: China

The campaign – which includes an e-petition – is being launched as local presses sit idle as a result of the coronavirus, while the government and taxpayer-funded institutions send print work overseas, on the basis that "ït's a bit cheaper".

Taxpayer-funded institutions such as the National Gallery of Victoria and the Queensland Art Gallery are sending major print contracts to China, with values in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for prestigious print jobs. 

Union bosses, the head of the PVCA, and printers, spoke in the strongest terms, calling any decision to send taxpayer money overseas for print in the current climate “reprehensible”, “unthinkable”, "inexcusable", and “frustrating”.

Some $300m worth of print is currently going offshore, mainly to China, but also Vietnam, India, Singapore and further afield. Around 50-60 per cent of that is estimated to be government or taxpayer-funded work.

While it may be “cheaper” the print industry is angry that is due to government regulation, which most printers support, such as environmental, OH&S, superannuation, taxation, which all has a cost that overseas printers do not have to pay.

Industry has launched a petition and urges all print business people to sign it. The petition – It's time to make print and packaging thrive in Australia – is online, click here to get to it and e-sign it.

Lorraine Cassin, national assistant secretary, AMWU said, “Every day, thousands of workers are losing their jobs as businesses close down. It is unthinkable that in these circumstances taxpayer money would be spent overseas instead of here at home.”

“Governments of all levels need to do everything they can to keep workers in a job, and keep our industries alive. All government printing work must be done here in Australia from now on,” Cassin said.

Printing businesses across the country are seeing a drastic reduction in work as a result of the collapse of the hospitality, tourism, sports, and entertainment industries, and the severe impact the virus is having on almost every other sector of the economy.

“It is inexcusable that any taxpayer money is being spent overseas on products and services that Australian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are ready, willing and available to supply government”, Macaulay said.

PVCA CEO Andrew Macaulay said, “For government to be spending taxpayer money in China on print today is reprehensible. Many of our members are looking at either standing down their workforce, or reducing the hours that they work because there just aren’t enough print jobs coming in.

“If the National Cabinet, prime minister and state premiers can make sweeping decisions to shut down private businesses, they can certainly give a directive to their own departments and operating entities to only procure from Australian SMEs,” Macaulay said.

Wayne Eastaugh, managing director, Marvel Bookbinding & Print Finishing, said, “It is frustrating to see Australian taxpayer money going overseas to support other economies when passionate and skilled local printers are struggling because of a lack of work."

Printers across the country have provided PVCA with examples of federal, state and local government agencies procuring print from overseas, particularly China.

PVCA says that “At this time of disruption to our economy from Covid-19, and the requirement for government to spend $300bn on stimulus packages to assist SME businesses and their employees, it seems incongruous for government to be spending tax dollars overseas on print that is readily available in Australia. This procurement could assist Australian SMEs.”

Australian printers provide WH&S benefits, maintain environmental standards, and remunerate within award conditions that all far exceed any of the markets where the Australian Government agencies are procuring their print. The market is not a level playing field.

PVCA has written to the Treasurer and senior ministers seeking urgent redress on government print procurement, to ensure that this money is being spent with Australian SMEs. We have escalated this communication to the prime minister now.

PVCA said, “We seek your support for this initiative by signing the petition in the following link, , and sharing this petition with your staff, customers and suppliers and seeking their support. If the print industry backs itself, by backing its industry association, together we will give print and packaging a strong voice.”

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