‘Buy local’ purchasing plan backfires

Muru CEO Mitchell Ross

On 7 September the Federal Government implemented a new Stationery and Office Supplies (SOS II) Panel. Last year sales through the previous SOS Panel were worth $38 million.

One supplier says the new contract unfairly favours foreign-owned companies over Australian suppliers, because the only manufacturer of Australian made indigenous paper refuses to supply the only Australian owned company on the Panel.

“Instead of creating fairness for Australian businesses, the SOS Panel II has unknowingly created a system where the Government is favouring two foreign owned companies over Australian owned businesses,” says Mitchell Ross, CEO of Muru Group, a Sydney based and Australian owned stationery business.

The Panel makes it mandatory for all non-corporate Commonwealth entities to make all future purchases with the two SOS II panellists – Complete Office Supplies (COS) and Winc.

COS is Australian owned, and Winc (formerly known as Staples) is US owned. COS supplies paper from Muru. The problem, Mr Ross, told Government News, is in the sourcing of paper.

“What the Government did not realise is that the Japanese owned Australian Paper Mills (APM) holds a monopoly on all paper produced in Australia.

“While APM has been producing paper for Winc, it has repeatedly declined requests to produce the Muru brand for Australian owned COS. That means COS and Muru cannot supply Australian-made paper.

“Through clever marketing APM has convinced the Government that buying Australian produced paper is beneficial to Australia and will save the Government money, but what about Australian businesses who truly support Australian workers and the community?

“If APM refuses to supply us Australian made paper, we must source our paper from overseas. But we are Australian owned and we’re doing more for Australia.”

He says that Muru supports Australian jobs and contributes 15 percent of its profits to ‘closing the gap’ initiatives for Indigenous communities. “These initiatives include the support of an early childhood education program in far north Queensland for Indigenous pre-school children, as well as donating computers to Indigenous community organisations across Australia to create a positive legacy for future generations.”

Mr Ross says that Government agencies should think more deeply about their procurement decisions, and that buying Australian product does not mean you are supporting Australians.

“Australian businesses want to produce product in Australia, to see more jobs go to Australian workers, and to benefit our economy. Both COS and Muru Group rigorously and continually request to engage in services with APM, but with no success.”


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