Commissioner pursues a fair playing field in tricky times

Local Jobs First Commissioner, Moana Weir

Fairness starts with listening for Victoria’s new Local Jobs First Commissioner, Moana Weir.

The pursuit of fairness runs deeply within Victoria’s new Local Jobs First Commissioner, Moana Weir.

It is a common thread from her initial decision to study law and throughout a formidable career that includes chairing the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission for more than five years.

As Local Jobs First Commissioner, Moana is committed to pursuing fair opportunities and outcomes for local businesses and their workers leveraging the Victorian Government’s extensive infrastructure and procurement programs.

The opportunity is significant. Victoria has a $72 billion project pipeline spread across 146 strategic projects that fall under the watch of the Local Jobs First Commissioner.

The Local Jobs First Policy endeavours to give the state’s local industry, including small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), a fair opportunity to compete for government contracts while also mandating that a portion of total hours worked on large construction projects valued at $20 million or more goes to local apprentices, trainees, and cadets.

The Commissioner also advocates for Victoria’s social procurement framework and the recently launched Fair Jobs Code.

In addition to engaging with industry and advocating on their behalf, the Commissioner oversees compliance regulation and enforcement of Local Jobs First commitments on government projects.

“We spend time speaking to local manufacturers, suppliers in the construction industry as well as government agencies and industry associations and unions, it’s a very diverse array of stakeholders,” Moana says.

The timing of her appointment as Commissioner early this year, following the retirement of the inaugural Commissioner Don Matthews, has coincided with a period of significant challenges for project delivery.

Supply chains around the world continue to be disrupted in the wake of the pandemic, with the construction industry particularly impacted by the rising cost of building materials and supplies.

A very tight labour market has led to a shortage of workers in some areas, while international influences are impacting on energy costs and other supply chain issues.

“It’s an interesting time in procurement; it’s quite disrupted,” Moana says. “For contractors and government procurement agencies, there are some challenges coming up in the delivery of the Local Jobs First projects.”

Moana’s extensive legal background helps in understanding the Local Jobs First legislative environment.

A key focus is on bringing contractors and government agencies together to work collaboratively and transparently on any issues that have the potential to impact project delivery and meeting Local Jobs First commitments.

Being a good listener and understanding the different perspectives of stakeholders, which include government agencies, Tier 1 or 2 contractors as well as SMEs, is vital.

“It is very challenging to be managing these large projects for government agencies and for contractors with so much going on in the supply chain,” Moana says.

“What I am looking for is agencies and contractors to work closely together and regularly talk about those challenges and where there are early indications that there might be impacts on project delivery, including the delivery of local jobs first commitments, parties working together to solve that and ensure opportunities are made available to local businesses and workers.”

“I have been a corporate lawyer, and I am very much in the business of facilitating solutions and outcomes to achieve the aims of the Local Jobs First policy.”

Moana is focused on understanding systemic problems and “supporting local industry and SMEs to clear blockages” to create a fair playing field.

Starting as Commissioner in late January, Moana has been busy coming up to speed on the project pipeline, meeting stakeholders and considering the future objectives for the next Local Jobs First three-year strategic plan.

“I am looking forward to meeting local industry and SMEs in both metropolitan and regional areas and to really understand what we can do to help and promote local businesses,” she says.

For more information, visit: Local Jobs First.