By Wayne Kayler-Thomson
Victoria faces many challenges, including adapting to world expectations on climate change while maintaining our low-cost energy advantage, tackling skills shortages, keeping up with low-cost overseas competitors and accommodating a growing population.
At the same time, Victoria has a great many natural and man-made advantages it needs to press home.
FOR the past 20 years, Victoria has been relatively well managed economically, with surplus positions recorded in most budgets. Our business tax levels measure up domestically, but we don’t compare as well with our competitors in the Asia-Pacific region.
Although the Centre for Independent Studies rated Victoria as Australia’s equal best fiscal manager for the three years until 2009-10, government spending has risen rapidly.
Why not run the ruler over government again so we can cut taxes on jobs like payroll tax, cut red tape and stimulate much-needed productivity growth?
People and skills
VICTORIA’s skills have given it a lead as an attractive place to invest in IT, advanced manufacturing, engineering services, professional services and biotechnology.
To retain and build on this, educational standards need to be reinforced from primary school onwards.
A bigger focus on preventative health will also ensure a more productive workforce.
Clean and green image
THE rising Asian middle class could trigger an agricultural boom.
Promisingly, Victorian grapes can now enter the massive Chinese grape market and satisfy off-season demand.
We need to be ready to service these markets by protecting prime agricultural land and ensuring that more of our flood waters are captured.
Geography and population
WE should not be frightened of immigration and population growth. As our population ages, we will experience massive skills shortages if we do not poach the best and brightest from overseas as well as educate and retain our own.
While Melbourne will grow, we are blessed that we have half a dozen liveable cities within commuting distance of Melbourne. These towns will develop their own satellites as they grow larger, spreading population across the state.
THIS of course requires proper infrastructure links to and between the regions, and within Melbourne via better-functioning public transport and roads.
Avalon airport must be granted international status to boost regional tourism.
LIKE South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, we need to attract higher-spending tourists with visitor infrastructure and high-quality wilderness accommodation.
Arts, culture and sport
VICTORIA’S high quality of arts, culture and sport needs to be protected with a tougher law-and-order approach so that people can safely enjoy it.
WE also need to build our major events calendar to help spread visitor flows through the year.
Conventions also bring huge amounts of income. The Melbourne Exhibition Centre needs to be extended and regional exhibitions centres expanded.
OUR brown coal is a 500-year resource, and applying science to make it cleaner may even turn it into an exportable product, as well as making Victoria a clean energy hub.
These ideas are by no means exhaustive, but intelligent government and an unshackled private sector will help assure our economic future, otherwise the standard of living we have come to enjoy will be at risk sooner than we think.
This article originally appeared in the Herald Sun’s Business section on 25 February.