State of the Nation Highlights

All panel discussions from this year's State of the Nation are now available on our YouTube page.


NSW: Let's revive to become number one state again

Reinventing the State of NSW Part 2 examined the State’s diverse sources of revenue.

Reinventing the State of NSW Part 2 examined the State's diverse sources of revenue. Key topics covered business confidence, rebuilding the Sydney brand, attracting business investment to the state, maximising port infrastructure to improve export and import capacity, international and national tourism, and leveraging Sydney as a knowledge capital.

At this extended luncheon, Patricia Forsythe, Simon Spellicy, Grant Gilfillan and Greg Stone spoke on the potential to improve the bottom-line for businesses and government.

With a new state government in power since March 2011, a new Budget and a 10 year State Plan to rebuild the state, the emphasis was on the real potential to revive NSW's economic and social fortunes to become the number one state again.

Creativity is the key, said event chair, GHD's Karrin Peacock, National Group Manager, Strategy and Economics. "However, in light of our economic climate, and scarce capital base, we need to come up with creative ways to do more with less by effectively using our existing infrastructure, managing demand for services and encouraging alternative sources of funding and investment."

Sydney Business Chamber, Executive Director, The Hon Patricia Forsythe addressed the importance of the NSW brand in attracting new business. While the government had inherited some negative perceptions of instability and unreliability around doing business with government, she highlighted that Sydney ranks very high on international surveys for liveability and business - so external perceptions are positive.

Ms Forsythe pointed to NSW's triple AAA rating, diversity of cultures, proximity to Asian markets, and Sydney's emergence as a sustainable city; this needs to be leveraged further.  She drew on recent branding work conducted by the Welsh (UK) development agency highlighting that difference is important when businesses decide on a new location. One key finding was that "The most popular destinations blend soft factors like architecture, culture and environment with the prerequisite economic and financial criteria to create a holistic identity".

The focus of the city, whether as a key banking and financial services hub, a premier tourism destination or an education and digital community needs to be defined and stated clearly.

"To reinvigorate the state...we need to clearly identify our strengths and align our strategy," said Ms Forsythe. "We need ...the big bang approach.

"If you ask people at the moment to define who Sydney is, what Sydney is ... there is no clarity around brand.

"Let's get on and do something about [amalgamating] the 43 [local] councils. We need to create a whole of government approach and address the silos."

Sydney Opera House, General Manager of Tourism, Simon Spellicy spoke on how we use cultural assets to drive revenues to the state.

He highlighted that the Sydney Opera House is not only an iconic and key tourism asset with 8.2 million visitors per year; it is also an economic driver contributing $1.1 billion to the national economy and 22,250 jobs nationally.

Cultural tourists spend more days, more money and are more likely to visit regional locations. As such they need to be harnessed by better marketing.

"One way we can do this is by leveraging our cultural assets. Sydney has got wonderful cultural assets," he said.

Sydney has the capacity to brand a cultural precinct, utilising cross promotion, directional signage, improved transport access, and partnerships and cooperation between institutions and agencies.

A cultural precinct naturally exists from Walsh Bay around the harbour to Hyde Park. "It's something that has always been there but never really of focus on any marketing activity," said Mr Spellicy.

He said marketing campaigns need to be more mysterious like Victoria's "Play Melbourne" and "Lose yourself in Melbourne" campaigns. Campaigns need to focus on promoting the overall experience of Sydney, as opposed to single event promotions.  He said that Sydney needed to create "a sizzle".

"If you create the idea that a city is a place where exciting things happen, and lots of them, then you are more likely to attract people," he said.

Sydney Ports, Chief Executive Officer and Director, Grant Gilfillan outlined the great potential in ports and integrated infrastructure in NSW.

Port Botany, a powerhouse of NSW, currently conducts $67 million worth of trade, stores 2 million container twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU's) annually, and employs 26,000 people directly and indirectly.

"The capacity of the footprint we have at the port now is probably about 7 million TEU's and we could very easily reach that capacity by 2030," he said.

In light of the exponential growth of ports as gateways for Australia, Sydney Ports have begun major expansions including the Port Botany Expansion, Bulk Liquids Berth and an Intermodal Logistics Centre at Enfield. Mr Gilfillan also announced that Sydney Ports had been given the tick of approval by the NSW Planning Minister for a new cruise passenger terminal at White Bay.

Sydney Ports have also spent $30 million on community enhancements including the beach, cycle ways and lookouts along Foreshore Drive at Port Botany.

"That's all part of doing've got to give something back to the community," Mr Gilfillan said.

The traditional role of Sydney Ports is evolving: "We have also taken on the enormous responsibility of improving the logistics chain, a role that the government has given us. It's no good just building infrastructure; you've got to make it work properly".

All can be achieved with money, quality leadership and a plan underpinned by a vision.

Microsoft Australia, Chief Technology Officer, Greg Stone highlighted the importance of knowledge capital in terms of productivity. He said that we have witnessed a productivity decline across almost all sectors.

He suggested the reality of productivity has not been maximised because we have gone for the low hanging fruit (ie, the resources boom) and this may have masked the need for innovation in productivity or, at least, diminished the intensity of innovation.

"We are about to move profoundly into what many are terming the knowledge age, knowledge economy," he said.

"We've got a concurrent skills reduction, though age attrition. The percentage, for example, of skilled senior people that are evacuating even the public sector now is frightening.

"Understanding these complex dynamics, we think, is just critical, in order to deal with what is fundamentally a set of implications for our future standard of living as a nation, and certainly as a state."

As such we need to move away from the process driven industrial age to the notion of augmenting human interactions he said.

"We spent about the past 30 plus years actually getting rid of people, automating processes, automating things in order to remove people because we thought of them as labour: an input to production.

"But they're moving back into the centre now not as labour, but as actually knowledge capital ... knowledge producers, knowledge innovators."

As a result, culture and leadership are moving to the forefront of business. 

Mr Stone urged NSW to embrace the new potential of a knowledge economy, rather than simply preserve the current process economy.

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For upcoming events in NSW click here.