NAB and Woodside chairman says education and innovation are vital for economic growth



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National Australia Bank and Woodside Petroleum Chairman Michael Chaney has told a CEDA audience in Perth that the long election campaign has caused a “perfect storm” for consumer confidence and growth of the Australian economy.

National Australia Bank and Woodside Petroleum Chairman Michael Chaney has told a CEDA audience in Perth that the long election campaign has caused a "perfect storm" for consumer confidence and growth of the Australian economy.

Mr Chaney said industries outside the mining industry have been struggling for some time and consumer confidence has decreased.

"For the last little while there has been some increased pessimism around," he said.

"In the National Australia Bank we have had no business credit growth for the last three years overall, in fact that's the system not just the bank so it's been pretty subdued all round."

Despite the downturn in investment Macquarie Group Western Australia Chairman Mark Barnaba, said the state economy is not in trouble.

"Yes there has been a slow-down in some state metrics but the state is still doing well. I mean I think talk of a recession is somewhat ludacris," he said.

"The state is well-placed if you go back 13 years to 2000, out of the Pilbara we produced about 100 million tonnes of ore, fast forward two years and that number will be more like 650 million."

Mr Chaney also said the future outlook for the WA economy is not all doom and gloom as developments such as the Gorgon Gas project and mine expansions are completed.

"There are some optimistic ways of looking at it as well, the resources boom I think has peaked and we are going to be seeing a tailoring off…but production will increase….and that's going to flow on with some benefits in the community," he said.

Mr Chaney also stressed the importance of innovation, research and education in future economic development of Australia.

"Education is the key I think to prosperity for the country," he said.

"We've got some outstanding universities here (in Perth) and we ought to be a centre of research and education."

At a state level, Mr Chaney said Western Australia can become a centre for new resources technology and insists Woodside will work with local researchers to develop new technologies.

"Perth ought to become the centre of floating LNG technology in the world and I think will if we play our cards right," he said.

"In Woodside's case if we proceed with that at Browse we will be insisting that the technology is located here in terms of design and so on."

Despite the economic importance of higher education, innovation and university research, Mr Chaney criticised the Federal Government's funding of universities.

"We've had a statement from our Prime Minister that we want to see 10 of our universities in the top 100 by 2025, by the way an unattainable goal - but at the same time cutting research funding doing exactly the opposite," he said.

Akram Azimi, the 2013 Young Australia of the Year also said investment in education was important for future generations.

"So rather than seeing education as a cost to the state, I would love to see this discourse change and we see it as an investment sector. We see an investment in each individual student," he said.

"What I would love to see is not only funding go to educational infrastructure but also to students and teachers and academics."

Mr Chaney also said foreign investment in Australia is important for economic growth and development of major industry projects.

"Australia's become what it is today through foreign investment through the whole of its history and that has to continue," he said.

"The last thing we need is sending messages foreign investment is not welcome."

His comments come after suggestions by WA Premier Colin Barnett that Australia's foreign investment laws discriminate against Chinese investment.

 

Shaping WA also included presentations from:

Sue Ash, Chief Executive Officer, UnitingCare West

John Galvin, Executive General Manager, Georgiou Group

Reg Howard-Smith, Chief Executive, Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia

Professor Paul Johnson, Vice-Chancellor, The University of Western Australia

Graham Laiit, Managing Director, Milne AgriGroup

John Nicolaou, Chief Officer, Membership and Advocacy, Chief  Economist, Chamber of Commerce and Industry Western Australia

 

Our keynote panel discussions included:

Akram Azimi, 2013 Young Australian of the Year

Mark Barnaba, Western Australia Chairman, Macquarie Group

Michael Chaney AO, Chairman, National Australia Bank and Woodside Petroleum

Marion Fulker, Chief Executive Officer, Committee for Perth

Mark Pownall, Editor at Large (facilitator), Business News Western Australia