Fighting State of Stagnation

In her song “22”, Lily Allen reflects the regrets of a single woman turning 30. The lyrics include “she’s got an alright job but it’s not a career, when she thinks about it, it brings her to tears”. It always reminds me of when I was Chair of SA Great / Advantage SA and we ran events for South Australian ex-pats in Australian cities. I lost count of the young people who really wanted to return home, and were even willing to take pay cuts and lower their expectations, but still couldn’t find the career roles in this state that would bring them back.

As we face the loss of another Federal seat because of stagnant population growth, and, with it, a further decline in national influence, the arrest of this interstate exodus must be one of our highest priorities. This is reinforced by recent reports of a significant drop in the numbers of international migrants who will be allowed to enter Australia. South Australia has not recorded a quarter of positive net interstate migration since the September quarter of 2002 and we rely on overseas migration to support even our meagre population growth.

Our recent pre-election media campaign on this issue was designed as a ‘call to action’ to all parties on this issue and the importance of a supporting a stronger local business sector to create the career opportunities we so sadly lack.

Before heading to Melbourne to visit BHP Biliton Chief Executive Andrew McKenzie, our new Premier, Steven Marshall, stated in a video log that he was “unashamedly pro-business” and he wanted to “re-invigorate our economy and get this state going again”.

Those statements wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy in any other Australian capital except that they encapsulate a complete philosophical about-turn after the Weatherill Government. 

Our last State Government was not pro-business, and other than picking the odd winner for a grant, it did very little to recognise the imposts of payroll tax on small business or reducing critical costs like power. Indeed, Jay Weatherill regularly stated he supported big government, notoriously declared to a large business event that he was not a “free market guy” and he even described our mostly small business sector as “the employer class”.

So, it’s a refreshing change that new Labor Opposition leader Peter Malinauskas has said he will support business growth and that will start by supporting the new State Government in passing a payroll tax threshold increase.

Cutting payroll tax is the first step in what we hope will be a new bi-partisan approach to creating the kind of economic and regulatory settings that will grow jobs, support stronger business confidence and urgently stem the outflow of so many of our best and brightest.

This article was originally published in the South Australian Business Journal on Tuesday 17 April 2018.

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