This opinion article is by Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott and Aon Australia chief executive James Baum.
Last month’s flood has rocked Townsville to its very core.
However, the stories coming out of the region at this difficult time have been of a community that pulls together.
While both the human and economic costs will be significant – the business community is committed to playing a real and meaningful role in rebuilding what has been lost. We all need to work together to make sure there are strong foundations for a prosperous future.
Risk adviser and local insurance broker, Aon, has operated in the region for more than 50 years. The company is sending a strong message to its insurer partners to put local tradies first, echoing comments made recently by Townsville Deputy Mayor, Les Walker who has stressed the importance of involving local tradespeople in the recovery to ensure the money stays in the community and that the entire community benefits.
There are more than 15,600 technicians and trade workers and 10,900 labourers in Townsville.
It makes sense to employ local tradespeople so that they can get back on their feet while also helping to rebuild their own community. Supporting local trade businesses will also directly stimulate the local economy. It’s very clear that local trades are more accessible to respond to and handle call-outs or return visits to sites to deal with additional repairs. The same can be said for replacement of flood affected motor vehicles.
Playing the role of the client’s advocate but also looking after the interests of the community, Aon is encouraging insurers – those who handle the claims that are made by this community – to put local tradies first wherever they can. Aon does understand that insurers must accept ultimate responsibility for the timeliness, safety and quality of works according to their code of conduct and policies. However, during the last week, it has received assurances from a number of insurers that, where possible, they will include local trades as part of the normal tender processes, cost and scope verification and will always look to support insureds in their choice of repairer.
Aon also backs the Insurance Council of Australia’s (ICA) call for the implementation of the Productivity Commission’s recommendation that the Commonwealth invest $200 million a year in mitigation and resilience, matched by state and territory governments.
According to recent ICA research the federal seat of Herbert is Australia’s most flood-prone electorate. Sixteen of the most flood-affected electorates are in Queensland and four are in New South Wales. More than half of Queensland’s electorates feature in the top 20 most-affected Australian electorates.
The ICA says mitigation works should be treated as nation-building infrastructure projects, on par with highways, rail and bridges. When mitigation is in place it protects communities, has a substantial impact on the economy and productivity, and helps prevent loss of life.
Townsville and its neighbouring communities are full of opportunity and potential. There are 16,700 businesses in the city and its surrounding areas, employing more than 103,000 people.
Lendlease’s Elliot Springs project will build 10,000 homes for 26,000 people at the foot of the Townsville’s Sisters Mountains.
The first stage has featured Hansen Constructions, a local small business that has employed up to 45 people to install services and build roads. Another local contractor, Transcape, built the landscaping, employing 30 to 40 workers. The benefits of this are flowing through to local families, to other local small businesses and local contractors. The creation and support of a local supply chain is critical to rebuilding Townsville and the surrounding areas. It’s estimated that about $580 million in wages and salaries will be injected into the local economy over 40 years from jobs created as part of this massive $4.7 billion project.
We need an environment in which Australian businesses can get ahead. With support, these businesses, which employ six out of every seven workers, can expand, invest, innovate, pay higher wages and create new jobs in communities.
This is a community with strong endowments in terms of the skills of its people and the resources available throughout the area.
The challenge is to make sure we build on this and create a sustainable future for the community.
That’s about big and small business investing and coming together to strengthen Townsville now and into the future.