I live in South Australia and am a passionate about the State, the lifestyle and everything it has to offer.  It is a great place to live with a fantastic climate, food and wine precincts, easy to get around and a great place for a family to grow up in.   The one glaring gap which I have wrote about previously, is our economy.  It is an economy that has been on the decline for the last 15-20 years and is continuing to struggle notwithstanding the natural advantages and lifestyle I advocated in the previous blog link.  We have created very little jobs in this State and continue to have a mass exodus of our best and brightest leaving to the Eastern States or overseas for “greener pastures” due to the lack of opportunities in their own backyard.

I am not sure why there appears to be little urgency from our State and Federal Government levels in this area.  A recent article in the Advertiser on 13 June 2015 titled “Toil and trouble lie ahead as jobs burn and rage bubbles” was an excellent insight in to why this has been the proverbial football hand passed between government and different parties blaming each other for where we find ourselves.  That is, the position of having the highest unemployment rate in the Country at 7.6 per cent with the pipeline of future job losses looking extremely likely with the impending Holden closure, Port Augusta and Leigh creek coal demise, manufacturing decline and stifling inertia around our defence sector.

This is now terminally serious.  We cannot put lipstick on a pig and we cannot continue to blame each other.  We must all take personal responsibility for driving the change so desperately needed to turn the proverbial impending Titanic around.  Daniel Wells wrote in the article highlighted above that “SA has often been guilty of ignoring what has been right in front of its face.  Good lifestyle, great climate and relative wealth make complacency easy”.  There is a great saying around the fact that “nothing fails like success”.  This sums up South Australia and our complacent approach to ignoring the fact that we need to grow or we die as a State.  It really is that simple.

So rather than complain about it, I thought I would put down some thoughts from a business leaders perspective on what I think we need to do to really drive job growth urgently to arrest the decline.  Key points are as follows around what I want to see from government and business leaders at all levels:

  • Stop blaming other parties or other levels of government.  Work together to solve what is the biggest challenge South Australia has experienced for a generation;
  • Cut the small state based taxes to free up bureaucracy and red tape and replace with an increase in GST so that the cost impact is cost neutral but the extra time that this will free up for business owners will allow them to grow their businesses;
  • Reduce significantly the public service to what we can afford as opposed to keeping them with the fear that we need to keep people employed.  It is fool’s gold to fund them with taxes that cripple the economy and small business;
  • Target infrastructure that will drive productivity and jobs rather than infrastructure that makes us feel good.  This could be the difference for mines, employment and businesses to move ahead with plans to grow their businesses;
  • Invest in some study trips to places like New Zealand.  As someone that has been there close to 150 times over the last five years, they are doing a lot of things right.  They have had similar challenges to us with their economy, scale and size.  Learn from them and partner where we can with a country that is going places;
  • Reform local government in a way similar to what Auckland has done.  They have moved from eight councils to one and the difference in productivity around infrastructure stimulation and acceleration is noticeable.  The cost of infrastructure in Australia is high simply because we have lots of hurdles, government departments, councils and others to figuratively work with and jump through to deliver an outcome;
  • Set the target for every business owner to employ one more person than they currently do.  If we implement the initiatives above, I am very confident this can happen by freeing up every business owners most important asset – their valuable time through less bureaucracy which can help them grow their business.  I personally will commit to this;
  • Raise the urgency in our State around the importance of change, growth and opportunity.  For me, this is vital in highlighting that we need to do things differently to expect a different result.  The last 15-20 years have highlighted that we have not got the outcomes we want.  Change it up and bring people along for the journey.

Shareholders in a business that had been through this decline would be baying for blood.  Why are we not?  Is it the death by a thousand cuts that has us feeling small and gradual pain?  We need every business and every person to think global and act local to really drive the change we wish to see which is returning SA to a great place to live and work.  Get up, get moving and make things happen.