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Local content report just spin: union

New figures on local jobs and contracts secured in Western Australia's resources sector have been dismissed by a union as public relations spin.

As the debate about work for Australians versus foreign labour continues to rage, WA Commerce Minister Simon O'Brien has released a report showing local businesses have won $30 billion worth of contracts in the resources sector since July last year, resulting in 75,000 jobs.

Mr O'Brien said the contracts included work in construction, project management and equipment supply.

"This is a jobs bonanza for Western Australia," he told reporters.

Mr O'Brien said "local content" - recruitment and purchases of goods and services - for Chevron's massive Gorgon gas project on Barrow Island had risen to 64 per cent, from 44 per cent last year.

For BHP Billiton's Port Hedland Inner Harbour project, local content had increased from 67 per cent to 73 per cent, while it had risen from 63 per cent to 90 per cent at Worsley Alumina's expansion.

But Mark Hudston, the construction division spokesman for the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, said the WA government was talking up just a few big projects like Gorgon while some local manufacturers such as Matrix Composites were laying off staff.

The minister acknowledged that the manufacturing sector was "not as competitive as we'd like".

"But the government's working hard to help individual enterprises improve their competitiveness and thereby make sure that we get all of the benefits of our resources industry," he said.

He also noted job cuts in the engineering sector, saying the government was working with Engineers Australia to make sure WA got "a greater slice of the engineering pie".

Mr O'Brien said the CB&I Kentz joint venture at the Australian Maritime Complex south of Perth had recruited its 1000th employee for the Gorgon project and was now looking for a further 600 workers, including about a dozen apprentices.

The joint venture said it would start the hunt in WA first before looking elsewhere, targeting Bunbury and the greater South West region as it was seen as an untapped source of labour.

Mr O'Brien also said 85 foreign companies, mainly in the oil and gas sector, had established themselves or expanded their existing businesses in the state in the past two years.

The outlook for the resources sector was strong with $167 billion worth of projects under construction or "in the pipeline", Mr O'Brien said.