The Committee for Sydney welcomes the publication today of the NSW 2040 Economic Blueprint. We now have an economic strategy to sit alongside the land use, infrastructure and transport strategies. This is something the Committee has long advocated, and we were pleased to participate in the consultation as part of the formulation of the Blueprint.
The fundamentals of NSW’s economy are extremely strong. The Blueprint acknowledges the many strengths we have to build on — a highly educated workforce, extensive trade links with Asia, abundant natural resources, and so much else. Sydney is a magnet for global talent, a finance hub, a leading provider of higher education, and broadly one of the most admired cities in the world.
But the NSW economy is held back by a series of longstanding challenges. The Blueprint outlines an agenda for reform on many of these, including the tax system, the planning system, and, the vocational training system.
The Blueprint also proposes a set of aspirations for NSW that point us in the direction of proactive strategies to build a stronger economy that supports an even higher quality of life.
With all that said, the Blueprint is not government policy, and the real question now is whether its 39 recommendations will be implemented. The Committee for Sydney is committed to working closely with Government and business to move forward the key ideas in the Blueprint.
Some of the areas that we see as most important are these:
- Sydney needs a planning system that gives greater certainty and clarity. That means working toward a strategic planning approach — meaning, the rules are clear and projects that fit the rules are permitted — rather than being so reliant on ad-hoc decisions.
- NSW should look to transition away from Stamp Duty towards a broad-based Land Tax, in order to reduce revenue volatility and reduce the dis-incentive for properties to trade. We suggest the voluntary phase-in approach that the ACT has developed as a useful starting place.
- NSW needs a serious plan for climate transition as a central part of its economic strategy. Sooner or later the coal exports are going to stop. NSW should be facing this challenge in a proactive way rather than passively hoping things can go on as today for as long as possible. A serious climate transition strategy will include focused efforts to support traditionally coal-reliant regions like the Hunter to transition their economies.
- NSW should redouble its efforts to streamline business regulation. This is detailed, even tedious work, that covers many different parts of the economy, but it is necessary work. The 2017 Greiner Review and the current work of the Productivity Commission provide useful starting places.
- Sydney needs to bring housing costs down, one of the key drivers of costs to business and one of the biggest negative reputational attributes that showed up in our forthcoming Benchmarking Sydney report.
Finally, we observe that we need a federal government that is oriented to helping NSW with the things only the federal government can do. That means, for example:
- Reforming the visa and immigration system to make it easier for high skilled global talent to come here
- Investing in R&D at the upper end of the OECD range, as a portion of Australian GDP
- Removing barriers to the expansion of our university sector
- Modernizing Australia’s tax structure
Today’s Blueprint presents an ambitious and optimistic vision for the future of NSW economy. We look forward to working with NSW Government to help realise the vision.