2020 Summit – now a slow waltz?

The Good Oil * by Rod Brown

We’ve just had 1,000 passionate citizens pushing their barrows at the 2020 Summit. Fantastic. It has really got the Federal bureaucracy rockin’ – working out how to handle these ideas, particularly Ministers’ desires to accommodate as many ideas as possible. My bet is that the rockin’ will become slow waltzin’ as the dreams of the citizens hit the realities of Treasury dominated Canberra.

A couple of Shadow Ministers opposed the 2020 Summit as a matter of course, and came away looking extremely mean spirited. Indeed a feature of the Howard Government in its last two terms was the squeezing of ideas and scope such as land and housing, regional development, health and education. This was accompanied by a tight control over departments
– I recall many instances of good bureaucrats avoiding any proposals faintly at odds with the existing orthodoxy.

Anyway, congrats to the conservative politicians who got involved.

The headline recommendations – a review of the tax system and the resuscitation of the republican debate – were no-brainers. I wish the summit had provided more pointers on manufacturing and value adding industry. And the regional debate was a bit lame.

Here’s my take on the Summit’s regional priorities.

  1. Climate change, and impact on food/fibres/forestry – a predictable but important issue.
  2. Harmonisation of regulations – an old chestnut. Not an issue in our regular regional debates.
  3. Incentives to promote environmental sustainability – yes, but needs to be linked to 1, 4 and 5.
  4. Attraction of people and business to regional Australia – recommended a business mentoring program, encouraging young entrepreneurs, national rural education program, centres of excellence in agricultural studies, major tourist festivals. All laudable activities.
  5. Parity of access to infrastructure and services for regional Australia – unrealistic, although the availability of decent telecoms to the bush should not be negotiable.

My quibble is that the 100 regional leaders should have gone in harder by recommending a strong, COAG driven agenda to align Federal and State policies for regional Australia. To explain, if the Federal government is genuine, it should be, jointly with the States, aligning both its policies and expenditure on roads, water infrastructure, health, education, housing, community development and so forth, and thereby laying out a framework for investors. This should be overlaid with the provision of modest investment subsidies for rural regions to at least get investors thinking about alternatives to investing in the outer suburbs.

Before I’m accused of heresy, be aware that Invest Australia is in the process of being emasculated, and several States are in the process of cutbacks in agricultural and community advisers.

SA investment nodes

Each month we’ve been identifying hubs that could be positioned as a national investment attraction framework – we have 12 in Queensland, 20 in NSW, 11 in Victoria and five in Tasmania. So far, no violent disagreement, and our blog has had many hits from overseas folk.

Turning to South Australia, its defining feature is space, and the dominance of Adelaide in terms of State economic and political issues. Nevertheless there are sizeable production nodes outside Adelaide, and some could be very attractive investment hubs should the food industry take off, and the Feds and State Government get their act together.

Northern Adelaide – the hot spot, almost 70 per cent of SA’s manufacturing industry. Various industrial parks and serious players including defence (ASC, Tenix, BAE); automotive (Holden, Bridgestone, Futuris); electronics (Codan, Clipsal); food processing; optics and opthalmics; chemicals and mineral products (Adelaide Brighton).

Southern Adelaide – significant capacity in automotive (Tenneco, BSTG, Wylie); mining services (Minsup, Amdel); food and wine. World-class lifestyle attributes.

Adelaide CBD – quality education and research infrastructure, with well entrenched mining services, ICT and biotech companies, and a suite of new companies coming through. A natural for a creative industries hub.

Barossa Valley – processing centre for wine industry. Includes Roseworthy research centre and Waite Institute spinoffs.
World-class food, tourism and lifestyle. Gawler and Adelaide Hills provide the bookends.

Fleurieu Peninsula – fast growing region, adjacent to southern Adelaide. Tourism, food and wine, aged care. Includes Murray Bridge, an increasingly attractive home for agricultural equipment and transport services.

Upper Spencer Gulf – has a lease of life by virtue of the mining boom and Roxby Downs. Four nodes: Port Pirie – lead, zinc, silver and services; Southern Flinders Ranges - tourism, arts. Whyalla – steel and rolled products, heavy engineering maintenance, iron ore, chemicals (Santos, OneSteel). Port Augusta – transport, mining services, retail centre. Downer EDI and Transfield.

Eyre Peninsula – Port Lincoln is a nationally significant aquaculture hub (tuna, oysters, kingfish). Region is also a substantial grain producer. Adventure tourism.

South East – relatively self contained region with strong linkages to Victoria. Runs from Mount Gambier to the Coonawarra and Limestone Coast. Competitive advantages lie in timber, pulp, horticulture and wine.

SA Riverland – previously covered under ‘Victoria’

Federal Budget

By the time you read this, we will be in the process of digesting the Federal Budget. Perhaps Telstra’s Phil Burgess had a point about Australia being over governed, over taxed and driven by Canberra. Anyway, we are anticipating that despite the cutbacks, there are interesting new programs relevant to Local Government and companies operating at the local level. Much of the program apparatus will be in a state of flux until various program reviews are completed later this year. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us for guidance.

*Rod Brown is a Canberra-based consultant specialising in industry/regional development, investment attraction, clusters and accessing federal grants. He can be contacted at apd@orac.net.au or phone (02) 6231 7261. Go to our blog at www.investmentinnovation.wordpress.com for 400+ articles on issues relevant to Local Government.