Event Jennifer Westacott interview with Kerry Peck, 2BS Bathurst
Speaker Jennifer Westacott, Kerry Peck
Date Thursday, 2 May 2019
Topics: Infrastructure, regional growth, regional planning
Kerry: CEO of the Business Council of Australia. First of all, tell us what you're doing in the city.
Jennifer: Thanks. Well we are here as part of this thing we're doing called Strong Australia. We're getting around to the regions of Australia, to basically do three things. First of all, to go back to our major companies who form part of the Business Council and tell them what's happening in regional Australia, get them encouraged to come to regional Australia, invest in regional Australia. Second thing we are doing is trying to make sure that we tell the story of business in the regions of Australia. You know, so much of the conversation nationally is about the inner city suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne.
Jennifer: But there's another conversation about regional Australia and that's the conversation about big and small businesses working together, about ingenuity in local communities. We want to tell that story. The third thing is to listen to people. What are their priorities? What can make places like the Central West and Bathurst in particular more successful? And then how can I and the Business Council advocate for that?
Kerry: Now, you know, you're looking at all sorts of companies for example like Simplot. You're looking at MARS, formerly Uncle Ben's. You're looking at Devro for example in the Bathurst area. These are very large companies.
Kerry: And their commitment to regional areas has been quite phenomenal really isn't it?
Jennifer: It's been huge and it's been sustained and that's what we've got to keep going. And then we need all the things that come off, say the Simplot arrangements which is the relationship with Coles, which is a huge relationship. And then all the things that flow off those big opportunities. One of the things I want to talk about to people today is the huge opportunity that I think exists with the Western Sydney Airport. I mean, this will be the biggest airport in Australia. It suddenly changes the distances. It will have an agribusiness port. That's a huge opportunity for these big agribusiness players, to suddenly get their products to international markets with the 24/7 very substantial airport. So I want to talk about that with people.
Kerry: Right, okay. You can see this as being a plus for regional Australia?
Jennifer: Absolutely, particularly for the Central West because suddenly everything is closer. Then you take the inland port in Parkes and again, Bathurst is sitting in the Central West, is sitting in the middle of all of that. Suddenly, things that looked logistically hard, look a bit easier. Then there's more of a case to upgrade rail, upgrade roads.
Kerry: That's interesting because one of the things that's happened under the Berejiklian government for example, and I've noticed this over the last four or five, or a couple of terms actually, is that they've started to look at rail again. I believe, and this is only me, and who am I? But I believe that this is going to be one of the most important things we can look at in the 21st century is our rail infrastructure.
Jennifer: You are absolutely spot on and it's fantastic that the NSW Premier has really taken this as a really serious view. If you went around that airport, you'd be gobsmacked at how much progress is being made and then, you know, the North-South rail link, the Northwest rail link, the Southwest rail link, all these things are happening. People used to say that's never going to happen. It's happening. And I think this Premier is very committed to rail and then you've got the opportunity of the inland rail. Then you've got the opportunity of the high speed rail. So many people say to me, look, these things will never happen. But they used to say that to me about the Western Sydney Airport and I stood on the runway a couple of weeks ago.
Kerry: Yeah, and the other thing about this too, and this is just a very small thing, locally we've been very, very passionate about the fact of getting the bullet going early in the morning which is a fantastic rail link to Sydney. I mean it leaves very early in the morning. So, theoretically you can get on the bullet, you can go to Sydney, do your work all day and then come back in the afternoon.
Jennifer: Absolutely, and we've just got to start looking at rail as a new opportunity to connect regional Australia. And that's the other thing that we're doing as part of these trips, is to say what are going to be the things that drive that connection so that we can create opportunities for people to come and live here, come and live and work here, for new industries to get going. I mean, Bathurst particularly, has got a very diversified economy. I spent yesterday afternoon at Upstairs, the tech incubator - it was terrific. And people forget that the brilliant thing about the internet and the NBN is that all these things that were once just things that you did in the major cities, are now the domain of anyone.
Kerry: That's right.
Jennifer: And, you know, I can start a business in my garage and be pretty successful. And I think that's what we've got to get, that enthusiasm.
Kerry: That's right. So, the luncheon today?
Jennifer: Yep so we've got small businesses, local chamber, we've got the mayor coming, Ticky Fullerton, you know famous broadcaster, is running the lunch as part of our relationship with Sky News. We'll be live streaming it. It's really important that we sit down with the local community and say, what is going to make this even stronger? What can I take back to the powers that be and also to major corporates?
Kerry: And the major thing about this of course is obviously communication and feedback.
Jennifer: Absolutely, and I want to get feedback from people. I want to give people that sense that this is a place of huge opportunity, now how do we get it cracking and make sure that we get that message across Australia, that this is a whole nation. It's not a nation of the inner city suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne. This is a nation made up of ingenious people working hard, staying the distance in places like the Central West and Bathurst. How do we tell that story? How do we listen to people? How do I take their ideas and their priorities back to the big corporations in Australia? But also the politicians in Canberra and Macquarie Street to say 'hey, if we did just a little bit more here we'd actually create more opportunities for people.'
Kerry: Thank you for talking to us this morning.
Jennifer: You're very welcome.