The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, says the Andrews Labor Government must alter its purchasing protocols to protect local industry and local jobs.
Mr Walsh said one of the greatest stories to emerge from the early stages of the pandemic has been trashed by government disinterest.
He said Shepparton-based mask manufacturer Med-Con boosted its production from two million face masks to 60 million after government appeals, to rescue Australia from its personal protection equipment shortage when the pandemic first struck.
Med-Con spent millions of dollars on new machinery, made as a rush order by Echuca-based Foodmach, hired 100 new staff and within months of the call had reached the target set by Canberra.
“But now cheap imports have been able to return; the Andrews Labor Government has thanked Med-Con by scrapping it from the Health Purchasing Victoria bulk buying protocols,” Mr Walsh said.
“Med-Con has been forced to sack most of the staff it added last year, has now mothballed $3 million worth of machinery and is being priced out of the market by cheaper, and definitely inferior, imports,” he said.
“Med-Con has a five-year supply contract, with a five-year option, with the Federal Government; but the Victorian Government has made it clear all its wants is the cheapest product.
“If this is the approach it is going to adopt to offset the billions of dollars it has been wasting in recent years; then local businesses are going to be the ones paying the price.”
Mr Walsh said the decision to stop supporting locally made was also shortsighted.
He said COVID had demonstrated it can keep reinventing itself and come back in second, third, and fourth waves so is unlikely to ever go away.
“Daniel Andrews has made it clear masks will be part of our lives – indoors and in the open – and for a long time to come,” Mr Walsh added.
“And here is a local business, employing local people; and making a superior product and yet it has been dumped by his government,” he said.
“If things did get bad again, or we faced a new crisis, the imports will disappear; and do we then expect Med-Con to step back into the gap and save us once again?
“This is classic Andrews Government; it’s all about the headlines, not the deadlines; and not delivering options that ensure Victorians can be kept safe when necessary.”