BCA–Regional Australia Institute Consultations in Townsville new

This opinion article by Business Council of Australia Deputy Chief Executive Maria Tarrant was published in the Townsville Bulletin on 22 October 2013 under the title ‘Thinking Big to Cement Future’. The Business Council of Australia is currently taking part in a series of regional consultations organised by the Regional Australia Institute to better understand how the BCA’s Action Plan for Enduring Prosperity relates to local economic development.

identified $34 billion of projects in the region that are either under way or approved, with another $33 billion of proposed projects in the pipeline.

The projects under way have already generated substantial economic growth and jobs, but unless the area pulls out all stops to lock in projects that are in development, let alone those that are proposed, there are no guarantees that they will be delivered successfully.

This puts the community prosperity they would provide for future generations at risk.

In the global economy Australia operates in, investment goes to countries that are the most competitive. We’ve enjoyed 22 years of economic growth but the resources investment boom has allowed Australia to take our eye off the ball when it comes to the economic challenges we face.

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) has joined forces with the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) to embark on a tour of regional centres to explore the main drivers of competitiveness ... [we are in] in Townsville to bring together representatives of business, government, researchers and the wider community to hear about the region’s achievements and challenges.

The BCA represents the chief executives of 120 of Australia’s most successful businesses. This visit is a chance for us to explore how the issues that face Townsville and North-West Queensland line up with opportunities and challenges in other parts of the country, and the nation overall.

This year, the BCA released an Action Plan for Enduring Prosperity, which set out nine key areas the country has to get right to lock in prosperity for all Australians, through jobs, quality services and infrastructure, and a fair social safety net for those who need it.

In a complementary project, RAI recently released [In]Sight, the nation’s first online index and interactive map of regional competitiveness.

The index shows that the Townsville area has great strengths including tourism, mining and tertiary education, but that the lack of adequate infrastructure and essential services needs to be addressed.

Together, the BCA and RAI are holding a series of conversations about the drivers and barriers of regional competitiveness.

The lesson from earlier conversations in Port Hedland and Wollongong has been that the kind of issues that affect Australia’s national competitiveness are writ large at the local level.

This reflects the experience of BCA members, many of whom have a significant presence in regional Australia and in growing cities such as Townsville.

These large companies have deep connections through local communities they employ thousands of people and play a major role in supporting small and medium-sized local businesses.

The economic reforms Australia needs to stay competitive in a vastly more competitive world can only be achieved if different sectors work to find and build common ground, and to negotiate where we have differences. And that’s exactly what we are aiming to do with our community conversations.

Visit the Regional Australia Institute website