Inventing the Future: SA to 2050

Change and growth is not a given and South Australia is either on the cusp of great prosperity or becoming a Harvard case study for lost opportunity, a CEDA forum on Inventing the Future: SA to 2050 has been told.

Change and growth is not a given and South Australia is either on the cusp of great prosperity or becoming a Harvard case study for lost opportunity, a CEDA forum on Inventing the Future: SA to 2050 has been told.

Attendees at the forum also heard that counteracting Adelaide's boring tag, lifting skill levels and boosting the level of political dialogue are key issues that need to be addressed.

Keynote speaker SA Economic Development Board Chair Raymond Spencer outlined the board's six point plan for ensuring SA's future prosperity while also highlighting key issues that he saw as "red flags" that must be addressed.

"I believe that South Australia is at a pivotal time in its history - a decade when it will be decided whether South Australia becomes a glowing example of one of the world's greatest places to live or a Harvard case study on lost opportunity," he said.

"Fulfilling our potential will not come easy and without change in some of our attitudes, change in the way political dialogue is conducted, without streamlining in our bureaucratic processes and without increased innovation and risk taking in the private sector the story of our next 50 years could well be entitled 'opportunity lost'."

Mr Spencer said the Economic Development Board six point plan included:

  • Maximising immediate and long-term economic opportunity from the strongly-growing resources sector;
  • Ensuring regional development including an action plan for the Upper Spencer Gulf region;
  • Proactively sourcing export opportunities and inward investment for SA - commenting they are looking at setting up an arm possibly called Invest SA that could promote investment in SA;
  • Ensuring infrastructure and investment is aligned with economic and social development priorities;
  • Making SA a more competitive state to do business - including developing tools to compare key indicators against other jurisdictions and working to improve planning processes; and
  • Promoting SA as an attractive place to live and do business.

Mr Spencer said the opportunity to move manufacturing further up the value chain would also be important, highlighting that for every job in manufacturing two to five jobs were created in the rest of the economy and this would also ensure SA was part of the international knowledge economy.

He also highlighted manufacturing had helped make other economies more resilient with the European manufacturing belt, countries like Germany, Switzerland and Sweden, recovering the quickest from the Global Financial Crisis.

Mr Spencer said two year action plans with measurable outcomes were currently being built around the six point plan.

While he said there were many positives with how SA was currently tracking he raised concerns around:

  • The current median house price running at 7.3 times the average annual income - suggesting it should be below five;
  • Adelaide residential land now being the second most expensive in Australia;
  • The greater Adelaide population being older than the Australian average  - highlighting SA needs to attract more young professionals; and
  • South Australia now being the least optimistic state measured by the June 2011 NAB Business Confidence index.

In addition he said SA needed to change the perception Adelaide is boring.

Mr Spencer said SA should be viewed and promoted as a combination of world bests, highlighting that SA had received "world best" ratings for its wine, beaches, islands and hotels.

While he said that didn't mean changing Adelaide into Las Vegas, it did mean actively fighting the tag placed on Adelaide by other states when competing in areas such as investment.

Additionally he said SA needed to start seeing change as an ally and political debate and dialogue on all sides needed to improve, which was the responsibility of everyone.

Other key speakers at the event included:

  • Anglicare Chief Executive Dr Lynn Arnold who raised that the growth in the ageing population in SA would need to be considered in any planning for the future. He highlighted that currently for every person over 85 there are 33 people in work, but by 2050, if the work paradigms don't change, that number will become nine people in work for every person over 85.
  • Flinders University Vice Chancellor Michael Barber who highlighted that lifting skill levels would be critical to meet the needs of tomorrow, with many of the jobs and skills required in 2050 unlikely to exist today.
  • Business SA Chief Executive Officer Peter Vaughan who provided a colourful picture of his ideal SA in 2050 including a multi-prong foot bridge in central Adelaide, shops open on public holidays, a magnetic bullet train to the airport, both desalinated and recycled water and underground carparks. While highlighting these future possibilities, Mr Vaughan pointed out that if we looked to the last 40 years, there had been little change, so we cannot take for granted that change will just happen.