Archive for October, 2010

Understanding Simon Crean

October 28, 2010

Simon Crean as the Minister for RDA and local government is now a key Cabinet minister and I’ve been tracking his speeches and interviews given that he has $10 billion worth of leverage. And being an old union leader, he knows all about leverage.

He is continually advising regional stakeholders to develop creative local solutions.

For example “My job is about encouraging regions to understand that their local solutions have got to be the things that challenge government in terms of its resource base. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to entrench localism and local input into the way in which we govern to ensure that the resources from all levels of government respond to those initiatives.” (This means YOU shouldn’t be shy about pushing agencies to collaborate with you!)

Another of his favourite themes is three-way sustainability – for example “Increasingly the challenge for regional development is to understand that sustainability is economic, environmental and social. So we have to make sure that the services are there, that they’ve got the state-of-the-art health and education facilities. But interestingly broadband is going to provide us with a huge opportunity to really make that connection work. E-health, e-medicine, e-commerce, this is the challenge to all regions in diversifying their economic base. This is the framework the Government is putting in place, but it won’t work unless it’s much more responsive to the creative local solutions.” (there’s the c word again)

“The spending in regions has always been substantial. It’s just that we’ve never identified it. That’s why one of the things I’m keen to do in the portfolio is to get all governments to break down their spending in their portfolios by region so that regions have a better sense of what’s being spent on their education, health, physical infrastructure, so that there’s the sense of the spatial economics of this sort of thing.” (This is VERY interesting – never been done in Australia. Your region might offer itself as a guinea pig?)

“The challenge is how we spend it more efficiently and use the new spotlight that’s on the regions, to drive that efficiency. Regions will be far more satisfied in the attention they’re getting, AND it will return a productivity dividend for the nation because of the more efficient spend of the nation’s resources.” (Nice rhetoric – again YOU might think about developing a model (everyone is talking models) that better coordinates business, education & training, trade, welfare, environment, indigenous, immigration initiatives – good task for a university)

“Australia’s future is dependent on strong regional economic development. We are a vast nation. Our diversity is defined by our geography. But we cannot maximise that diversity unless we get involved in strong, sustainable economic growth. That’s the challenge for the regional bodies – it’s a challenge the Government wants to respond to.” (Need to stamp this on everyone’s foreheads)

(We are here to help you access the $10 billion)

Vancouver – artistic hotspots

October 18, 2010

Vancouver and Vancouver Island is a hot spot for the artists, who are attracted by the region’s picturesque coasts, farm lands, and mountains.

Salt Spring Island, with a population just over 10,000 people, lies off the southeastern coast of Vancouver Island and is known as “the island of the arts.” More than a tenth of its residents are involved with the arts in some way, and, as a result, it was named one of the top ten small art towns in North America in the well-known guide book written by John Villani. Crafts are promoted with readily available catalogs and maps and high-end craft studios (

Vancouver Island also has mapped its 33 organic farmers and wineries, and the arts, crafts, music, and artisan foods are displayed at weekly open markets. Artspring offers concerts and theater in summer, and music also pervades the island’s man restaurants and pubs, with many name performers drawn to the island.

The Salt Spring Arts Council ( operates a cooperative gallery in Ganges, and for a very low membership fee ($20), it provides funding, materials and organizational support to a range of folk. Arts are strong in the elementary and secondary schools, and music, dance and art summer programs attract youth from around the world.

Granville Island has become the leading hub for the arts, and an example of how the arts can help to reshape and revitalize a deteriorated urban area. It was once a First Nations fishing village, created from a sandbar in the late 1800s to house heavy industry. After World War II, industry moved away, and the island was left polluted and an eyesore. In the 1970s, a local politician decided it could be re-invented with a low-rent cultural center where artists might live and work, with theaters to attract tourists.

Granville Island today is served by a steady stream of sea taxies bringing tourists from the mainland to visit the island’s 53 galleries and crafts coops, numerous theaters, a microbrewery, the farmers and artists market, and Vancouver’s premier art school, Emily Carr University. The island also is home to is claimed to be North America’s oldest crafts cooperative, Circle Craft. Started in 1973 by a Danish craftswoman, it has 200 members. The island retains its industrial architecture, with most of the studios still in corrugated metal or factory-like buildings, which adds to its mystique. Go to

Contributed by Stu Rosenfeld – CraftNet

Cluster experiences please!

October 18, 2010

Dear Colleagues, I’ve been asked by UN Habitat, to contribute to a chapter on the state of city clusters in the next State of the World Cities Report (SWCR), due for release mid 2011.

I though this would be an opportunity to tap into the Cockatoo Network for a bit of brainstorming on where we are globally on clusters – especially the contribution they make to local economic development. Given the global coverage of the SWCR, this is an opportunity for us to promote wider interest in clustering and to expand our network.

There are a series of questions that UN Habitat has put to me related to clustering that they’d like covered in the report. I have set these out below. The UN is particularly keen to explore differences between clusters in developed and developing countries. I would be very pleased to get members thoughts and ideas (especially on clusters in Latin America and Africa) to include in the chapter. I am looking for good case studies and information on indicators to enable comparisons between clusters.

Research Questions

1. How important are city clusters or as an urban-led approach to development?

2. What are the different patterns of clusters in different regions of the world- North America, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and Africa, What are their characteristics and defining features?

3. How significant is planned infrastructure to the development of city clusters (mainly in the global North) in the development of city clusters compared to city clusters that are more ‘spontaneous’ or resulting from the economic dynamism of regions without clear planning structures and strategies'(mainly in the global South)

4. Is there a set of indicators that could serve as a platform of comparison of city clusters such as economic output, population, aggregated GDP, technological innovations etc.

5. How significant are city clusters in contributing to prosperity; for instance, in terms of increasing income, increasing employment and reducing poverty. Are there good case studies and examples of this?

6. What are the comparative and competitive advantages of factors that make some city regions particularly attractive to the formulation of clusters?

7. What are the challenges associated with urban regions – management/ environmental and economic and social problems accompanying the development of city clusters?

8. What good practice policies have been adopted to facilitate the development/management of city clusters. Could some be made more effective. Which are the urban regions with global best practice?

I would welcome ideas, comments, information and suggestions from you. Please send these to my email Thanks for your help in advance.

Brian Roberts, Cockatoo Network Member

Cape York’s investment prospectus

October 18, 2010

There are some interesting developments up north.

Cape York Sustainable Futures have recently completed an investment prospectus on behalf of the region. It is very well written and we recommend that you peruse it – it is on the CYSF website.

It’s immediately north of Cairns, twice the size of Tasmania and has a population of 15,000, 70% of whom are indigenous. It has significant national interest in terms of mineral resources, quarantine buffers, pristine environment, indigenous culture and a sustainable development opportunities identified in the prospectus eg. aquaculture, ecotourism, agriforestry, horticulture.

The big constraint however is transport – all roads north of Cooktown are unsealed (unusable in the wet season) and air fares are high. The old chicken and egg scenario – what comes first, low airfares or greater numbers of passengers.

On a per km basis, fares around Cape York are about five times higher compared with readily available discount fares on high traffic routes. Below are fares quoted on 14.10.10 for travel one week ahead.

Total Cost (one-way) Cost/km

Qantas Cairns to Horn Island $663 (std. fare) $0.83
Transair Cairns to Arukun $486 (std. fare) $0.80
Qantas Cairns to Brisbane $215 (discount) $0.15

The reason – lack of an integrated network, lack of traffic (due to high airfares) and weak tourism marketing. We’ve spoken to the feds about the problem, which is common across regional Australia.

Keep you posted.

Thoughts for the month – COLLINGWOOD

October 18, 2010

Regular Gippsland correspondent, Rod Cheatley, has written to highlight the fact that a staggering 11 ex-Gippsland lads featured in the Collingwood-St Kilda AFL Grand Final last month.

They are – from Collingwood – Jarryd Blair (Wonthaggi), Tyson Goldsack (Pakenham), Dale Thomas (Drouin), Scott Pendlebury (Sale) and Brent Macaffer (Kilcunda-Bass), and – from St Kilda – Brendon Goddard (Traralgon), Leigh Brown (Heyfield), Jason Gram (Sale), Andrew McQualter (Traralgon), Sean Dempster (Snowy Rovers) and Robert Eddy (Stony Creek).

Rod claims this as some sort of record, given that Gippsland has a population of only 220,000. Hard to disagree!

Mr. Cheatley also passed on a quote of Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, after whom the famous football team was named: “Do something today which the world may talk of hereafter” (21 October 1805) Collingwood had a good win at Trafalgar that day. The Brits thought his boss, Horatio Nelson, was MVP.

Foley’s short-sighted cuts rock South Australia

October 18, 2010

SA’s lead economic agency, the Department of Trade and Economic Development, has just copped budget cuts of $100m over 4 years – and staff numbers are to fall from 200 to 120.

SA Cockatoo members are aghast – funding disappears for the nine Business Enterprise Centres, the Small Business Helpline and the SA Youth Entrepreneur Scheme, Innovate SA and the Technology Industry Association. The export and investment attraction functions have also been severely cut.

Treasurer Kevin Foley – facing criticism on numerous other fronts, even his mobile phone bill – said the cuts were to deliver election promises and marked a refocusing of DTED’s priorities around four sectors – cleantech, advanced manufacturing, knowledge-intensive services and resources.

Foley has a very short memory – the SA economy would be up the proverbiall creek had it not won the big federal Defence contracts 3-4 years ago, and the feds have been pumping in adjustment assistance to shore things up. How much longer is the federal government going to do the heavy lifting?

Another hub in Victoria – get the drift?

October 18, 2010

The federal and Victorian governments have provided support (unidentified) for the first IBM global R&D laboratory anywhere in the world.

It will employ 150 highly-skilled staff and PhD students, located at the University of Melbourne where researchers can work side-by-side to help tackle international issues e.g. managing natural disasters, using natural resources efficiently, fighting diseases, boosting agricultural yields, harnessing the power of biotechnology.

Premier Brumby said the project cements Victoria’s reputation as the ICT capital of Australia following the National Broadband Network’s decision to build their hub in Melbourne, and the release of the government’s $110 million ICT strategy.

MD Glen Boreham said “Aligned with its drive to build a Smarter Planet, IBM has been drawn to Australia by the availability of world-class talent, the innovation environment, continent-scale opportunities and Australia’s robust economy.”

Cockatoo’s submission to LG Indigenous Employment Green Paper

October 18, 2010

We recently provided a submission to the above exercise. The salient parts are as follows:

The document covers the key issues, especially the importance of collaboration. I believe it is the core of the solution to creating indigenous jobs, and is therefore deserving of greater prominence.

To explain, we get involved in numerous indigenous projects on behalf of our members – for example, scoping and securing funding for a Creative Arts Centre in Wilcannia, developing indigenous youth mentoring programs, finding ways of reducing airfare costs in remote areas etc. Virtually all of the projects have a need for robust collaboration, and local government can play a major role in this regard. The need for collaboration stems from four general problems endemic to ‘indigenous’ project:

1. they are often in remote areas, which means delays and difficulty in coordinating people

2. they get bogged down in the bureaucracy – the numerous agencies, strategies and protocols that are trying to improve the indigenous cause DO add to the complexity of projects and create frustration.

3. they tend to lack indigenous champions who can bring collaborative partners to the table – sensitive area but let’s just say that white fellas are pushier and more persistent in promoting their projects and ideas.

4. they often involve significant public good aspects, which is spread across the three levels of government and many agencies and programs.

This coordination problem can only be addressed by collaboration. And this requires people on the ground who are strong, persistent and skilled – and able to drive real outcomes. It’s a risky business, and not a job for amateurs. The ideal arrangement is two project managers working in tandem – one within local government and an external facilitor/consultant.

The ACELG project should highlight this problem and develop initiatives to address it.

kind regards

Rod Brown, CEO, Cockatoo Network Canberra A.C.T. Australia

Opportunities to empower local communities

October 6, 2010

Simon Crean, the Minister for the newly-created portfolio, Regional Australia, aims to empower local communities to drive their own regional development investments. And he wants future Governments and Australians to change the way they look at the nation, and to think “regional”.

Crean is on record as saying he doesn’t want the usual top-down approach. He wants to entrench a formal structure in Australian politics where communities tell the Government what needs to be done, and how money should be spent. He says his role in Cabinet is to question every decision made in terms of the Bush, and that his challenge is to better unleash regional Australia’s potential and to ensure that regions have a real voice in how the promised $10 billion for regional Australia is actually spent.

Crean says his approach will be to end the pork barreling, and to genuinely empower communities to have a more effective voice in relation to their strategies, to the issues that are important to them. And he wants to entrench regionalism as a voice for determining the way in which resources are allocated by all levels of Government and entrench it in a way that ‘cannot be unpicked’.

These are indeed noble aims, and it is incumbent on us to ensure he delivers. So local councils should be proactive by beginning to organising themselves to put proposals to the Gillard Government. Outlined below is the state of play with its core promises, and some opportunities that councils might pursue in this regard.

Regional Infrastructure Fund

The $6 billion Regional Infrastructure Fund is NOT yet certain. It’s not scheduled to commence until 2012-13, and is dependent on the Resources Super Profits Tax being introduced – this tax is not a fait accompli because of the coalition’s opposition to it in a knife-edge political atmosphere. It should also be noted that the Fund is pitched to promoting development and jobs in mining communities in Queensland and WA, although political pressure is expected to widen the coverage to other states.

Significantly for regional councils, an amount of $573 million is being set aside within the $6 billion for local projects as identified by Regional Development Australia Committees. This program hasn’t got a name yet, but it’s to unlock new growth opportunities in regional Australia.

Priority Regional Infrastructure Program

Of the remaining $4 billion, there is $800 million for a Priority Regional Infrastructure Program. This is reasonably certain because it’s not dependent on the resource tax. It will fund projects identified by local communities in regional areas, and it will most likely be modeled on the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. Councils therefore need to be smart and committed, because the RLCIP was a very competitive program, and the success rate for submissions was around 30% at best.

Health and Hospitals Fund

This involves a new round of the Health and Hospitals Fund, exclusively for Regional Australia ($1.8 billion). This presumably includes commitments already made in respect of the Hobart and Port Macquarie and other hospitals. The objectives of the HHF are to invest in major health infrastructure programs that will make significant progress towards achieving the Commonwealth’s health reform targets, and to make strategic investments in the health system that will underpin major improvements in efficiency, access or outcomes of health care.

Education Investment Fund

And the last big ticket play is a new round of the Education Investment Fund, quarantined to regional Australia (up to $500 million).The EIF funds significant infrastructure in higher education institutions, research institutions and vocational education and training providers, to basically do smart things in knowledge generation and teaching, and enhance Australia’s innovation capacity.

The balance

The balance of the $10 billion promise is taken up with the oddly-conceived Building Better Regional Cities program ($200 million to fund affordable housing to help attract workers to the select regional cities), a Critical Skills Investment Fund ($66 million for regional businesses and workers), reward payments to the most improved schools in regional Australia ($125 million), facilitation payments as part of a local school autonomy effort, plus a smattering of smaller programs.

Opportunities for councils

Councils in the Bush can obviously benefit from the Priority Regional Infrastructure Program, although the Bush has not yet been defined. We wait to see if this includes the infrastructure-hungry growth corridors on the outskirts of the major cities.

However councils should start NOW to scope projects prior to the preparation of submissions. There are two reasons. First, best practice elements need to be woven in and this process requires research and bedding down. Secondly, the support of council and state governments (and the private sector in some cases) will be required, and this can be tricky and very time-consuming.

It should also be noted that the bulk of the federal funding will be provided on a competitive basis, although multi-council submissions involving collaboration should be favoured.

Councils should also think about they can align regional stakeholders, align policy programs, and aggregate revenue streams. For example:

 The National Broadband Network is going to be a can of worms, so councils will be well-regarded if they facilitate projects that reinforce the NBN’s viability.
 The urban-regional infrastructure interface is a continuing challenge. The feds appreciate groups of councils engaging in this process.
 Indigenous jobs and affordable housing are intractable problems. Is it feasible for your council to get more involved?
 Environmental management has a further lease of life, courtesy of the Greens. Can regional councils somehow facilitate more Indigenous employment in this field?
 Multiculturalism and immigration issues play out at the local level. How can local projects employ new immigrants?
 Youth training and job readiness are hot topics, and they relate to all of the above policy issues.

The Cockatoo Network is currently advancing a range of multi-faceted projects. They include education centres, Community Lifestyle Centres, a film studio for the Bush, stormwater systems that reduce carbon footprints, international collaboration in sustainable tropical industries, infrastructure that attracts private sector investment, and Indigenous mentoring. If these activities interest you, please contact us because councils can provide the necessary commitment and local leadership.


Now more than ever, councils should be brainstorming their options and developing strategies to maximise your positions with the federal government. This is what we do. Please contact us for more details.

This article appears in the Good Oil column (authored by Rod Brown) in the October 2010 edition of Local Government Focus.