CONFIDENCE is seen as one of the most important measures of a good economy. In last year’s Sunday Mail Your Say SA survey, most people were “somewhat pessimistic” about South Australia’s future.
In June, a Business SA survey revealed confidence in the state had lifted to its highest levels since early 2010. A month later, local economists were buoyed by a BankSA survey that showed confidence was at 119.2 — where 100 is neutral — the highest level since the end of the global financial crisis in 2010.
Consumer confidence was also strong, rising 7.7 points to 109.4 — its highest level in four years. There was strong confidence among consumers aged 25-34, and pride had risen across the state.
With a federal election on the horizon, the Sunday Mail has asked key South Australians with their fingers on the pulse of industry, social services, and the city of Adelaide what political leaders should be focused on.
The responses have been diverse but re-emerging themes included population growth, and infrastructure investment. All agree Adelaide is a great city with huge potential.
Nigel McBride, Business SA chief executive
The head of SA’s largest business lobby says power prices and population growth are key election issues.
“Clear certainty around energy regulation which would drive down energy costs and provide certainty to industry must be one of the lead issues going into next election,” Mr McBride says.
“While it’s been pleasing to see better jobs figures, SA needs to continue to see reductions in broader unemployment alongside youth and regional unemployment figures.
“We also need to see a genuine plan for sustainable population growth, based on sensible skilled migration alongside the importation of smart capital into our state.”
Mr McBride says confidence will continue to grow as defence spending in the state translates into jobs and contributes to the supply chain.
He says federal politicians have championed Adelaide across defence, space, health and medical research, transport infrastructure, education, arts, wine and food and tourism.
“Adelaide has batted above our weight in terms of federal opportunities,” Mr McBride says.
He says Adelaide has many factors that make it a great, vibrant, boutique and highly liveable global city.
“Adelaide is one of the most attractive cities in the world, with a combination of environmental, lifestyle and educational qualities that we can be rightly proud of,” he says.
“We must take on the serious issue of sustained population growth with a sophisticated global strategy to attract the very best talent and inbound investment.”
Martin Haese, Adelaide Lord Mayor
Mr Haese also lists population growth as a key factor for the city.
He wants the federal election to have a focus on attracting head offices and businesses to the city, further developing SA’s advanced manufacturing sector and skilled immigration to support population growth.
“A great city is one which is both prosperous and liveable,” Mr Haese says. “Adelaide is already renowned for its liveability and its comparable affordability.
“However, a continued focus on jobs and residential growth will ensure Adelaide is one of the world’s greatest mid-sized cities.”
Infrastructure projects on his wish- list include expansion of the city tram network, investment in infrastructure which supports a future Commonwealth Games bid and appropriate and timely redevelopment of the old RAH site.
Greg Ogle, South Australian Council of Social Services senior policy analyst
SACSS analyst Dr Ogle, however, has warned the flow-through to community benefits from increased business and consumer confidence could be slow and patchy.
He says SA continues to have significant areas of disadvantage with 130,000 people (8 per cent of the population) living below the poverty line.
“We need to be mindful of the need to ensure everyone has a stake in — and gets a fair share of — future prosperity,” Dr Ogle says.
“A great city is one built on community — not a dormitory for workers or simply a place to work.
“A city needs community spaces, good public transport, affordable housing, and a system of social supports to assist people who are struggling. A great city is also a place where everyone is welcome, and disadvantaged people are not pushed to the fringes.”
Dr Ogle says federal parties need policies to address the high unemployment rate in SA, fix and enforce the Murray-Darling Basin plan, and fix energy policy with a credible emissions target.
“Parties also need to stop expanding policies which punish people simply for being poor, and should urgently invest in improved services for long-term recipients of unemployment payments, who aren’t getting the help they need to get a job,” he says.
Phillip Sutherland, Civil Contractors Federation SA chief executive
Mr Sutherland says SA needs a tram from the airport to the CBD and continued investment in the health precinct, naval shipbuilding, and a vow to complete the north-south road corridor within three years.
“I don’t think there is a remarkable, strong political link between Canberra and SA and our state’s social and economic fortunes,” he says.
“Nevertheless, improved business confidence in SA will count for something at the federal election, but this should not be overstated.”
Mr Sutherland says federal leaders need to take policies to the next election that would lift the state’s population, provide substantial investment in SA’s freight corridors, improve regional communications, and improve health services including more regional doctors.
Michael Horrocks, Lifestyle Bakery managing director
BAKING gluten-free goods for 20 years has helped Mr Horrocks’ Pooraka company carve out a niche in the food-production industry.
But it has been continued reinvestment in his factory and its people that has been the key ingredient behind the sustained growth of the firm which employs 70 staff to supply products nationally and globally.
“We’re going to have significant growth this year because we have reinvented products and taken on a lot more customers,” he says.
“As a business you have to keep investing to be able to stay relevant in terms of product price and quality.”
He says policies that remove or reduce costs such as payroll tax and land taxes that get “in the way of small business” would be welcome.
Daniel Gannon, Property Council SA executive director
The head of the organisation which looks after one the largest economic footprints of the SA economy says a record high level of property sector confidence has been delivered for the second consecutive quarter in SA — the highest result of any state or territory.
Mr Gannon says confidence levels are well above the state’s historic average, setting a new national benchmark. He stresses political instability could have a direct impact on business confidence and apply downward pressure on investments.
“Certainty instils confidence and with confidence comes investment and innovation, as demonstrated by the exciting city-shaping projects now underway in Adelaide,” he says. Mr Gannon says the sector wants election policies that will help the SA’s population grow.
“There is a strong appetite to sustainably grow SA’s population growth rate, which is an urgent policy priority for politicians and bureaucrats across local, state and federal parliaments,” he says.
“Our cities are great when they’re teaming with people who are supporting a strong and diverse economy, which is a pathway that Adelaide and SA are currently walking,” he says.
— with Renato Castello
Sparking back up
SHEET metal manufacturer Plasteel SA has been rebuilding its workforce which was cut in the wake of the so-called shipbuilding Valley of Death.
The Melrose Park firm went from 48 staff down to 16, losing experienced employees who had worked on projects including the Air Warfare Destroyers.
Plasteel stemmed further losses, rode through the uncertainty and re-employed workers by diversifying into sectors including renewable energy and mining.
General manager Paul Thyer is upbeat the company, which has 26 staff, will again reach 50 employees after securing work on the federal Land 400 armoured vehicles and offshore patrol boat contracts.
“Our outlook is bright and strong, we’re growing and actually looking for more tradespeople,” he says. “We want to keep SA jobs.
“If you asked me two years ago, it was very doom and gloom. We’ve had to survive, we’ve had to put plans in place to keep the place buoyant.”
Mr Thyer says governments must ensure there is better long-term planning to protect against job losses experienced in the shipbuilding industry.
Tax cuts will help us hire
THIS week’s Liberal leadership crisis has Mark Edwards shaking his head.
“It’s embarrassing for Australia — we’re a laughing stock,” the owner of Battery World Morphett Vale says.
Confidence in politicians may be at its lowest but when asked if he feels more confident in the future of his Bains Rd business, Mr Edwards is ebullient.
“Yeah, I do actually,” he says. “A lot of it comes down to how people run their business. In the retail business that we have the customer is everything … I tell my staff I don’t pay your wages, the customer pays your wages.”
Mr Edwards, who along with wife Cindy employs two staff, says federal tax breaks for small business would help stores such as his employ an extra worker.
“That will then help turn around unemployment as well,” he says.
“The tax breaks, while not huge, they will help our business — we’ve got to nurture small business.”
MILITARY MIGHT BRINGS IN JOBS
By Christopher Pyne, Defence Industry Minister
SOUTH Australia’s significant contribution to the defence sector will continue to increase and the Federal Government’s $200 billion investment in growing military capability over the next decade will be a fundamental driver of change and opportunity.
Twenty-three of the largest and most-sophisticated vessels from the Coalition’s $90 billion continuous shipbuilding program will be built at Osborne, employing thousands of people for decades. The National Shipbuilding College will connect Australian training institutions, with industry to deliver a skilled workforce for this massive undertaking.
ASC Shipbuilding in Adelaide is set to develop capability to design, develop and lead construction of large naval warships after becoming a subsidiary of BAE Systems for the build of the Hunter Class frigates.
It’s not just ships. Last week, I announced the handover of the P-8APoseidon simulator and training systems at RAAF Base Edinburgh, creating more highly skilled jobs. It will have an estimated 2200 employees during construction.
This follows the announcement this year of a $1 billion upgrade of the JORN over-the-horizon radar system, also controlled from Edinburgh, and will require a highly skilled workforce of over 500.
There will be a further $250 million investment in infrastructure at RAAF Edinburgh to support the new MQ-4C Triton remotely piloted surveillance aircraft based there.
I look forward to attending the Land Forces Army exposition in Adelaide, from September 4-6, which will demonstrate to the world’s armies the military equipment and technology developed in Australia — $165 million of the acquisition of new Rheinmetall Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles for the Army will come from SA businesses in the supply chain.
The Coalition is committed to using our $200 billion investment to develop opportunities for workers and businesses, giving more reasons for South Australians to stay or return.
MAKING MOST OF OPPORTUNITIES
By Mark Butler, Federal Member for Port Adelaide
SOUTH Australia has a lot to be proud of after undergoing a period of rapid change. Under 16 years of Labor government, SA saw the opportunities of jobs and investment which came from becoming a world leader in adopting renewable energy and transition to a clean energy economy.
Through the Rann Government’s wind farm rollout in the 2000s to the Weatherill Government’s world’s biggest battery and the world’s biggest solar thermal plant, we became the leading state in driving down pollution and modernising our energy sector. This momentum has allowed investment to flow through the private sector, with Sanjeev Gupta last week announcing his ambition to secure $1.37 billion in renewable-energy investment for SA.
However, with the loss of a federal seat due to slow population growth and continued interstate and overseas migration of our youth, the future of Adelaide needs to be driving jobs growth in our industries. We need to grasp the opportunitiesto create a capital city that is vibrant, and that is an expression of our confidence in the future.
The jobs are there to be seized, through projects such as the huge pipeline in shipbuilding and future frigates program — but there needs to be strong leadership to get us there.
Federal Labor has a vision to drive investment in the state with our commitment to create a $1 billion Australian Manufacturing Future Fund. The fund will give loans to manufacturers — or even take equity in them — to drive innovation and grow jobs.
Labor will guarantee funding for TAFE so more kids get the opportunities and skills they need for the jobs of the future.
Crucially, a future Labor Government will reverse Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to SA schools to prepare our students to properly shape a future Adelaide.
There are challenges ahead as we continue to grow our state. But with the right leadership Adelaide will embrace a bright future.