Archive for November, 2009

NZ strikes back

November 22, 2009

AUSTRALIANS might treat satirist John Clarke, actor Russell Crowe and South Australian Premier Mike Rann as their own, but New Zealand would like them back. They would also like Commonwealth Bank and Telstra bosses Sir Ralph Norris and David Thodey to think about their roots.

The NZ Government is so serious about luring Kiwis home from Australia – professionals and skilled workers, in particular – it has set up a taskforce headed by NZ’s former Reserve Bank governor and Opposition leader, Don Brash – to close the wage and productivity gap between the two countries by 2025.

Last year more than 35,000 New Zealanders moved to Australia permanently, attracted by incomes on average 30.5 per cent higher than in their homeland – 500,000 New Zealanders now live in Australia – 12% of the NZ population. It has the dubious honour of having the highest exodus of skilled people in the OECD.

If the taskforce fails – the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 has a clause that can add New Zealand as another state of Australia. (That should get a rise from our cousins – Editor)

USA gets Small Business STR (BEST PRACTICE)

November 22, 2009

David (Preacher) Dodd reports that Senator Mary Landrieu has introduced legislation to increase small business exports. The US administration is appointing a special trade assistant for small business to

  • promote the trade interests of small business concerns.
  • identify areas of demand in overseas markets.
  • identify and address foreign trade barriers that impede exports by small business concerns.

 Small business represents 97% of all exporters in the United States and account for 29 percent of the volume.  The constraints identified by the US Administration are:

  • lack of sales volume or resources to overcome the costs of trade barriers and overhead expenses in international transactions.
  • Small business advocacy groups often lack political influence in foreign countries, which hinders efforts to solve problems outside the legal process.
  • Small business advocates are not as visible or vocal on issues relating to international trade.

 David suggests that the proposed Cockatoo “Sunrise” project (aimed at bringing US and other nations into aid-investment-trade consortia) fits exactly with Obama’s mantra of “community” and “being a better partner in the global community.”

Successful clusters – advice from Belgium via Finland

November 22, 2009

 As previously flagged in this newsletter, some clusters are humming and others are on life support. Elisabeth Rocha (Belgium), a long-time supporter of TCI (see above), provided timely advice at TCI Finland:

“The secret of a successful cluster is to remain open for changes. Second important thing is good teamwork. The energy shouldn´t be wasted in tangling with the problems inside the company or cluster.

The success lies in being open to outsiders. A good cluster achieves a balance – all people in the region should be benefiting from it, not just the one sector involved in the cluster.

A successful cluster spreads its growth to other sectors. Too often forgotten is the importance of looking far ahead to the future. Many times we focus only on the present, which is a mistake. A cluster turns out bad if there is some company which is thinking only itself and doesn’t add any benefit to others. Usually that kind of company is involved only because of the public funding.”

(Thanks to TCI)

Far North Queensland – relaxation you can’t fake

November 22, 2009


The Cockatoo Team was in Far North Queensland in October. Herewith our report.

 Quality infrastructure – FNQ really is a well-integrated regional economy – there is now a breadth of economic activity beyond tourism, tropical fruit and sugar. Cairns Airport is delivering on the hub potential, with Japanese tourists and Gulf prawns coming in, telecoms equipment and meat pies heading out to Mt. Isa, Cape York and beyond. The roads, rural as well as urban, are generally first-class – although some Cockatoo members say the Cairns-Gordonvale sector is a car park in peak periods. The Cairns Esplanade has become a wonderful great example of infrastructure providing a focal point for a community.

Tourism characteristics – Despite the cheery dispositions, the city of Cairns is struggling. We are reliably informed that the unemployment rate is nudging 14%, due to falling tourism numbers and the NQEA shipbuilding facility losing a defence contract to Victoria. So the locals are talking about inventing new attractions based around adventure tourism. By the way, swimming in FNQ outside of swimming pools is a risky venture – take you pick of sharks, stingers or crocs. But the region’s point of difference is the genuine hospitality, and the undercurrent of relaxation. This cannot be faked, and it extends to all the locals, not just the tourism operators.

 Local produce – Another point of difference – the local produce – is being smothered. Take Port Douglas, 80km north of Cairns. It has a Noosa feel, with an excellent range of accommodation and restaurants. It suffers from a culture of appallingly weak coffee, but you can shrug that off. It has a serious lack of small businesses selling seafood, fruit and vegetables. When Rudd, Bligh and the Chamber of Commerce are crying out for small business growth, where are the policies and incentives for street stalls selling prawns straight off the trawlers, and greengrocers selling paw paws from the farms? Tourists want the unique and mystical experience. You have to shop at Woolworths in Port Douglas for such items – we could have been in downtown Canberra! Crazy state of affairs!

Recycled rubber (BEST PRACTICE?)

November 22, 2009

On 5 November, Federal and State Ministers announced that a tyre recycling scheme will commence in 2010 – but Ministers backed off a legislated scheme due to pressure from the cement industry (which burns tyres in kilns) and general concerns re Big Brother. Hence there is STILL no agreement on the details.

This week we explained our thinking to the feds (Dept of Environment), following which we’ve been invited to a ‘Tyres Roundtable’ – others involved are Australian Tyre Industry Council, Australian Tyre Recyclers Association, Minerals Council of Australia, Cement Industry Federation, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Motor Trades Association of Australia, Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce.

The approach we are pursuing is:

  • Big opportunity for councils to attract facilities to manufacture rubber crumb and downstream products e.g. rubber matting; footpaths; underlay for soccer, hockey grounds; road safety barriers.
  • Recent improvements in processing technology (UK, Germany) indicate that a viable processing plant can be established with feedstock of one million tyres annually. Long distance haulage of used tyres is not viable, so regions of 1 million plus should be able to sustain a vertically-integrated recycled rubber industry.
  • City councils (e.g. in Adelaide, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) thus have real potential to establish a greenfield processing plant – also regional centres with ‘road transport competitiveness’ should also be attractive e.g. Shepparton, Parkes, Orange, Port Macquarie, Wagga etc. And Newcastle has an opportunity to expand its facility.
  • Other councils have potential to be first-movers in the uptake of recycled tyre products – and we have begun discussions re how a grant program might be developed to facilitate this.

 If you would like your council or company to be introduced into these agendas, please contact us ASAP.


RDA system a shamozzle, says Silverhawk

November 22, 2009

I have bitten my tongue, but no more. The new RDA Committees, which replace the 55 Area Consultative Committees, are not going to meet the expectations of regional folk. The reason is that no one in Canberra could really give a damn – and National Party warriors are not saying much because they want Labor to wear the results.

Alarm bells began ringing when the staff running the ACCs were told two years ago to sit on their hands. Then there was the usual review so that regional Australia could develop smarter ways to improve their effectiveness etc. Then the lengthy process began of marrying them with the state RDBs – I said then that this could be wonderful if the feds took it seriously. Then a few more delays as Gary Gray was moved to establish the Office of Northern Australia.

Sadly, the RDA Committees could have had a real influence – by advising how infrastructure expenditure is to be rolled out, by facilitating new regional investments, and by fast-tracking the smaller expenditure to get things moving. But the Department of Finance has cut program funding to pay for the GFC i.e. everyone’s roof insulation, bike trails and school gymnasiums on Sydney’s north shore.

 Mayors should be demanding some long-term sanity to infrastructure spending and regional development. You can’t have 200 ACC staff sitting out there for two years doing nothing, then a flood of funding, then a trickle. Local players need to band together with their state colleagues and appeal to the Prime Minister for a whole-of-government long-term approach with a constant supply of oxygen.