WA-MAID program takes a break

THE State Government has bowed to industry pressure and suspended its WA-MAID industry development program.

WA Business News became aware of the development at an industry lunch last week, where Department of Industry and Technology acting CEO Paul Schapper unofficially told some diners that WA-MAID had been discontinued.

A spokeswoman for State Development Minister Clive Brown said this was not the case, saying instead the program was under review.

Discussions with industry about WA-MAID would continue, and the minister was aware of industry concerns about program, the spokeswoman said.

WA-MAID, which has applied since July, was linked to the Government’s Strategic Partnering in Resourcing Information Technology (SPIRIT) program, which requires IT firms to apply to list on a register so they can tender to government agencies.

Despite the fact the WA-MAID plan was still in draft form only, companies were obliged to comply with its requirements.

The local IT industry has been almost unanimous in its opposition to the program and its main requirement – all companies that received more than $5 million in government business in a three-year program would be obliged to invest the same amount in developing the industry.

That development could take a number of forms, including: strategic investments in Western Australian operations, including in regional areas; venture capital and other investments; and alliances with start-up and small to medium-sized ICT enterprises.

Industry representatives argued that it was completely unreasonable to base any such program on companies’ turnover, rather than net profit or their margins on work. They said some firms relied almost entirely on contracts with government agencies, and it would be impossible for those firms to comply with such onerous requirements.

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