Grow the economy, work to include everyone in it, and ensure that Sydney comes back from Covid-19 stronger than ever.
The innovation economy – encompassing the start-up ecosystem, transformation within larger firms, and new ideas coming out of the university sector – will create the good jobs of the 21st Century. It will also be how we replace the loss of jobs in industries that face automation and offshoring. Simply put – if we don’t create the right settings for innovation post-Covid, Australia risks decades of slow growth while other countries leapfrog us. However, with the right policy settings Sydney has a shot at being a world-leading innovation centre.
Work is changing – and we must adapt our education system to prepare young people for the new world. We know that few people will stay in a single organisation, let alone a single industry, for their whole career, so transferable skills and life-long learning are essential. While industry must step up with on-the-job training, there’s no getting around the fact that governments will need to invest in a new model of education.
For Sydney to prosper, we must attract the smartest people from around the world to live here. Sydney has always welcomed new arrivals, so this should be one of our great strengths, if we are able to fine tune the visa and immigration system to make it easy for people to come, study, work and contribute.
After London and New York, no other city hosts as many international students as Sydney. The mass education of the world’s young people, while also maintaining our universities’ rankings as some of the best research institutions globally, is something to be celebrated. NSW must continue to ensure our research institutions create worldchanging ideas while growing our ability to commercialise these ideas.
Sydney has for too long relied on natural assets to sell the city – the beaches, the bush, and the harbour. But these don’t reflect the story of life in Sydney, and they crowd out a story about our incredible diversity, vibrancy and appetite for growth and change. Investing in a new story that has the people of Sydney at its heart will attract visitors, talent, and investment to support the economic and social growth of our city.
Sydney cannot live up to its potential when people have to spend an hour or more every morning and every night to access their jobs. The costs of an unbalanced city, with most of the jobs in the east, show up in lost productivity, but also in family breakdown, where people are forced to choose between a job that advances their career and a job that allows them to get home in time to pick up kids and cook dinner. The solution is to develop employment hubs spread across the city that support good jobs in the middle and west of Sydney, adding to the strength of the CBD and other long established job centres by building on the competitive advantages of Western Sydney.
We know that sooner or later Australia’s thermal coal industry is going to disappear. We should approach this certainty with a sense of empowerment, by undertaking our own proactive strategy for transitioning the economy and supporting coal-dependent communities as the world changes. This should be the great economic project of our generation. And while we shouldn’t be naïve about how difficult this transition will be, it also represents an enormous opportunity for Australia to create new jobs and new industries that will position the country for the future.
Globally there is a move to recognise the impact of mega-regions as economic entities – where multiple centres are linked by fast rail to form an integrated economy. The scale offered by a mega-region that brings the Illawarra, the Central Coast and Hunter into a stronger relationship with Sydney would deliver benefits for all. This ‘Sandstone megaregion’ will be catalysed by fast rail connections linking the three cities of Sydney with the regions.
Sydney is an expensive city in an expensive country, so from a business investment perspective the costs need to be worth it. That means doing everything possible to remove bureaucracy and red tape, and to provide a transparent, enabling regulatory environment.