South Australia riding a new wave of confidence: Marshall

South Australian Premier, the Hon. Steven Marshall told CEDA’s Economic and Political Overview (EPO) event in Adelaide that a new sense of confidence is permeating the entire state.

Delivering the EPO keynote address almost a year to the day since winning the state election, the Premier said the state is currently experiencing above trend growth and nation-leading business confidence.

Mr Marshall said, in its first year in office, his Government had delivered the biggest round of tax cuts in the state’s history, a record infrastructure investment program, a skills program to create thousands of apprenticeships and traineeships and landed the national space agency headquarters for Adelaide. 

“These are important achievements, but they’re not ends in themselves because there’s a lot more for us to do,” he said. 

“There’s a lot of time that we need to make up. We’ve spent much of our first year pulling the foundations together for a much better government in South Australia and as we begin our second year we commit to building quickly and creatively on those foundations.

“South Australia continues to become much stronger and confident about our future, the place we hold in our nation and how the rest of the world regards us.” 

The establishment of the new national space agency in South Australia speaks to what the state is becoming and can be, Mr Marshall said. 
“Securing the space agency showed just what can be achieved with an ambitious focus on the future, when the collective enterprise and energy of South Australians is unleashed, when we meticulously plan and credibly advocate for our state,” he said.  

“We didn’t win that bid because we were owed. We won it because we were committed, and we were convincing. 

“Securing the space agency was one of those important psychological moments in time for our state; when South Australia threw off its inferiority complex, rediscovered our own self-respect and started to feel better about ourselves again.”

The space agency will be headquartered on the former Adelaide Hospital site, dubbed Lot 14, which the Premier said will be a global creation and innovation neighbourhood also housing start-ups and entrepreneurs, generating new ideas and a pipeline of opportunities for business investment. 

“I’m 100 per cent convinced that the energy being generated around Lot 14 will spread across our entire state and well beyond,” he said. 

Mr Marshall said Lot 14 provided a window on the economic and other priorities of his Government as it enters its second year in office. 

Priorities to revitalise the state’s training and skills industry include boosting TAFE support by $100 million over three years to build resources and introduce a new quality system and investing in skills and training to create 20,800 apprenticeships and traineeships. 

Mr Marshall said population growth must also be a major priority for South Australia going forward. The state would encourage more skilled and business migration as a way to ensure the state has the skills it needs. 

He said there was also a need to keep more South Australians living and working in their home state and attract a greater share of international students to South Australia. 

Following record temperatures experienced in South Australia over summer, securing the state’s energy supply is also paramount, he said. 

“This is why it is so critical that the South Australian Government continues to deliver on our energy solution,” Mr Marshall said. 

“This includes fast tracking the interconnector, developing grid scale storage and supporting the largest rollout of home batteries per capita anywhere in the world.

“It’s an approach that has been strongly endorsed by AEMO. It is based on practical, common sense policy and not ideology.” 

The Premier noted the Government had pursued all of these initiatives while undertaking considerable budget repair to ensure Government finances are on a sound and sustainable footing for the longer term. 

He said his Government had an appropriate and necessary strategy to support the state’s ambitions. 

“Our accountability to South Australians as their Government is to ensure that our policies encourage, and importantly enable, our state to grow and become much stronger than it has been for a very long time. That’s what we intend to go on doing.”   

Upskilling key to the meeting the state’s ambitions

Ahead of the Premier’s keynote address, a panel representing South Australia’s education and industry leaders discussed what the state will need to leverage future opportunities. A common theme raised by the panellists was the need to ensure the state had the necessary skills to meet future workforce needs. 

Flinders University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Stirling noted a growing skills instability with the shelf life of skills shrinking dramatically with the impact of new technology. 

Professor Stirling cited a recent Davos-based World Economic Forum report that predicted 75 million jobs could be replaced by machines over four years from 2018 to 2022. 

However, he said another key part of that report was less talked about. 

“That same report from Davos predicted there will also be creation of 133 million new jobs in the same period, so a net gain in fact of 58 million,” he said.  

He said while there is a threat to certain jobs there is also a massive opportunity for jobs creation with high-level technical skills in great demand. 

“The message from that report is some skills no longer have currency and others are in short supply. On-the-job training and upskilling will be an ever present feature of the future of work.” 
SAAB Australia Managing Director, Andy Keough said while there are long-lasting (50–100 year) employment opportunities emerging in South Australia’s high-tech manufacturing and defence industries, he doesn’t yet see the upswing to provide the skilled workforce needed in the early 2020s when these programs start ramping up.

In particular, he said, we are not getting the cut through to kids to encourage them down the path to STEM related careers. 

“We’ve got to keep doing more and more work to build the skilled workforce that we’re going to need in order to harness those opportunities,” he said. 

View all videos from this event here.