Celebrating 180 years of Serving the South Australian Business Community

“It is the romantic story of the march of trade and commerce in South Australia.”

The above words, written by Governor Sir Winston Joseph Dugan, were written in a foreword for a 1939 book chronicling 100 years of helping businesses thrive thanks to the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce.

Now proudly known as Business SA, we are tomorrow, 7 January 2019, celebrating our 180th anniversary of supporting trade and commerce in South Australia.

As the first chamber of commerce and industry in the nation and established two years and 12 days after South Australia was proclaimed, the Adelaide Chamber and its iterations, including Business SA, have helped the early settlers finding their commercial feet, to start-ups looking to export products or services.

Business SA Chief Executive Nigel McBride said while the chamber had gone through several mergers since forming in early 1839, it had continued to serve the South Australian business community and lobby all levels of government to provide better operating conditions.

“We are proud of the work the chamber has done over its 180 years and there have been many highlights, such as having taxes levied on auctions in the 1840s removed to help early settlers run businesses, to more recent wins including the fight against the proposed bank tax and cuts to payroll tax,” Mr McBride said.

“If we can continue to help cut the costs for business as we have done for 180 years, we will ensure South Australian operators remain profitable, become more successful, and boost the local economy, which in turn benefits the entire state.”

When the Adelaide Chamber formed in 1839 there were only a few businesses operating in the state, including Elder, Smith, Bank and Co (now known as Elders), and Bickford and Sons. Other big names to establish operations in the early days included Miller, Anderson in 1840, the Savings Bank of South Australia and Walter Reynell & Sons in 1841, Penfolds in 1844, and Faulding & Co in 1845. The Bank of South Australia pre-dated them all, forming in 1837.

The first vineyards were planted in the state, in North Adelaide in 1837, with the oldest remaining vineyard planted at Reynella in 1838. The first case of wine exported was Echunga hock in 1845, made by Walter Duffield, and sent to Jacob Hagen in London.

In 1839 the South Australian government spent £92,913, mostly on public works, with revenue of just £19,826, compared to total expenses in the 2018-19 budget of $19.6 billion and revenue of $19.2b.

At the start of that year, there 108,000 sheep and 7600 cattle in South Australia, compared to 10.7 million sheep and 1.1 million cattle now.

The state’s mining industry was born when silver and lead was found at Glen Osmond in 1841, followed by copper at Kapunda in 1842 and Burra in 1845, and gold at Montacute in 1846.

Exports at the time consisted mostly of whale bone, whale oil and wool, expanding to bark, gum, hides, skin, lead, slate timber, butter, oats, wheat, flour and copper, bacon, ham, eggs, and leather within the next five years. When exports were discussed back then, they were destined mainly for New South Wales and Victoria, with small consignments heading to the UK.

These days our major exports are wine, metals and metal manufactures, metal ores and metal scrap, wheat, meat and meat preparations, education, machinery and fruit and vegetables. The state hit its first economic flashpoint in 1851 – when up to 20,000 people left South Australia for the goldfields in NSW and Victoria. Dozens of stores closed and banks emptied. Within 18 months, failed prospectors returned to their farms and the state began to recover. South Australia faces a similar problem today with interstate migration, and Business SA is pushing to ensure our best and brightest return and our businesses can access global talent to enable them to grow.

The first railway in the nation was built in South Australia in 1854, from Port Elliott to Goolwa, and it was used to transport whale oil and other products to paddleboats to ship upstream to river communities and the eastern states.

In 1869, the South Australian Chamber of Manufactures was formed. This organisation was also the first of its kind in Australia, representing “men who made things”. While the state’s foundation was built on agricultural, it quickly embraced manufacturing.

One of the leaders in establishing the Chamber of Manufactures, which would later merge with the Adelaide Chamber, was saddler James Alexander Holden. His grandson, Sir Edward Holden, went on to form General Motors Holden and was also a key member.

The Chamber of Manufactures was instrumental in the late 1880s in arguing for water rights on the Murray River. About 60 years later it also began offering advice to employers on industrial awards, a precursor to our Business Advice Hotline.

In 1889 the South Australian Employers' Federation formed, also representing our core constituency.

At Federation in 1901, border duties were abolished, local industry protection was lost and competition in key industries, including winemaking, increased. To enable employers across the nation to speak with one voice, the Associated Chamber of Commerce of the Commonwealth of Australia - now the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry – was formed. Its constitution was drafted by a former South Australian chamber president.

By 1972 it was clear the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce and the South Australian Chamber of Manufactures could better represent members’ interests by working together, and merged to form the Chamber of Commerce and Industry SA Inc.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the South Australian Employers' Federation then merged in late 1993 to form the South Australian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. In May 2000, we launched as Business SA, with a new name and a new image for the state's leading business and employer group.

“Our state has an amazing history of agricultural exports, we’ve led the nation in manufacturing and our mining industries have thrived,” Mr McBride said. “We’re now turning to advanced biotechnology, defence and space. Our business confidence is growing and we have a bright economic future.”

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact Verity Edwards on 0412 678 942.

6 January 2019

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