AUSTRALIA'S foremost regional economic development conference, Sustainable Economic Growth in Regional Australia (SEGRA) will be held in the City of Kalgoorlie Boulder from November 16-18 this year.

“SEGRA is widely recognised as Australia’s most credible, independent voice on issues affecting regional, rural and remote Australia,” SEGRA Conference convenor Kate Charters said. 

This annual event highlights  trends and opportunities affecting regional Australia as well as showcasing examples of successful regional initiatives from government, business, social ventures and the community.

SEGRA attracts more than 300 delegates from all levels of government, senior members of Parliament, policy advisers, industry players, academics and practitioners to develop and promote solutions to regional issues. 

Conference convenor Kate Charters said the organisers were delighted to bring SEGRA to the City of Kalgoorlie Boulder.

“In addition to profiling the Kalgoorlie Boulder region to delegates, the conference offers an excellent opportunity to showcase the success of the region’s economic development strategies and its capacity to create economic opportunities, through innovative business, strategic planning and a commitment to sustainable living” she said.

City of Kalgoorlie Boulder Mayor John Bowler said, “The successful SEGRA bid was testament to Kalgoorlie Boulder’s unique position as an important innovative, creative and technologically savvy hub in inland Australia as well as  the capacity for regions to progress and prosper on their own strengths."

SEGRA 2021 is hosted by The City of Kalgoorlie Boulder with event partners Regional Development Australia (Goldfields Esperance), Goldfields Esperance Development Commission and Kalgoorlie Boulder Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

www.segra.com.au

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THE Queensland Resources Council’s (QRC) latest State of the Sector report highlights the continuing adaptability and resilience of the state’s $82.6 billion resources industry, in spite of the impact of the global pandemic, chief executive Ian Macfarlane said today.

Mr Macfarlane said a survey of QRC member company CEOs in February 2021 showed resources companies were actively looking at new technologies such as hydrogen to reduce emissions and grow their business in a sustainable way.

“More than two-thirds of the CEOs surveyed said they were thinking about hydrogen-related opportunities, and 10 percent are already committed to projects involving hydrogen,” Mr Macfarlane said. 

“In a clear sign hydrogen will play a role in Queensland’s response to the global challenge of climate change, 33 percent of CEOs believe hydrogen will provide an opportunity to reduce emissions in their own business, and a further 33 percent see hydrogen as an opportunity for growth.

“The resources sector’s interest in hydrogen supports Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s decision to appoint a dedicated Hydrogen Industry Development Minister, Mick de Brenni following the state election last year. 

“I’m also pleased to have been invited by Minister de Brenni to serve on the Ministerial Energy Council, which provides the resources sector with an opportunity to engage with the government and other stakeholders in the critical area of energy policy.”

Mr Macfarlane said Australian Bureau of Statistics’ figures showed Queensland mining and gas jobs increased by 15 percent over the 12 months to February 2021, indicating the number of jobs supported by the resources sector is now well over 420,000.

“Even better, 24 percent of the CEOs who responded to our survey said they planned to increase employment at their Queensland operations over the next 12 months, with half expecting to increase their workforce by more than 25 percent,” he said.

“This response from our CEOs is a huge vote of confidence in the resources sector which benefits every Queenslander through a stronger state economy and more jobs.”

Mr Macfarlane said maintaining a ‘people first’ approach to COVID-19 and following Chief Health Officer protocols has helped keep Queensland communities safe and allowed the resources sector to keep working, earning and employing its way through the pandemic.

“Resources companies are now also looking at how to best support the government’s state-wide vaccine roll-out to ensure people living and working in regional communities are vaccinated as soon as possible,” he said.

Three quarters of member CEOs who responded to the QRC survey said they would consider providing employees with information about vaccination benefits and risks; two-thirds would arrange for employees to be vaccinated voluntarily during work hours; and almost one in 10 said they would consider incentivising employees to be vaccinated voluntarily.

For the sixth consecutive quarter, the QRC report found the number one area of concern keeping CEOs awake at night was the volatility of the global economy.

Sharing equal second place was concern about poor regulation including regulatory uncertainty, and problems raising capital, with the link between the environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance of companies and their ability to capital-raise consistently raised as a major issue.

www.qrc.org.au

 

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GOVERNMENTS should seize opportunities that deliver long-term economic and social benefits to secure Australia’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to CEDA’s 2021 Economic and Political Outlook (EPO) report. 

CEDA chief executive Melinda Cilento said COVID-19 "has taught us we do better when we are bold" . Investments in social infrastructure such as childcare, aged care and housing should be high on the list, she said.

Australia should also build on the momentum of 2020 in the digital and data space by improving data sharing and linkage, to underpin evidence-based policymaking, Ms Cilento said.

“A key message from the economic contributors to this report is that despite periodic outbreaks of the virus, confidence and economic activity has been incredibly resilient,” Ms Cilento said. 

“Australia remained resilient by taking bold steps on health and the economy – 2021 will be no different.

“A rapid and widespread vaccine rollout will be crucial to maintaining recent momentum. In 2021, everything will flow from this, especially as governments wind back income support such as JobSeeker and JobKeeper that kept much of the economy afloat last year.

“The government should not be afraid to provide continuing support to the hardest-hit industries and individuals to support jobs and incomes, ensuring that the recovery is not derailed.”  

Australia’s openness to the world has come under increasing pressure and will be an important watchpoint as COVID-19 recedes.

“We must ensure our migration program emerges stronger, to support the recovery,” Ms Cilento said.

Some key policy debates are already re-emerging, although growth and jobs will dominate this year. 

“Climate change should be front of mind, given its business, economic and social significance, as well as the global policy shifts driven by the new Biden Administration in the United States,” Ms Cilento said.

“The Federal Government is moving towards committing Australia to net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Embracing that goal as soon as possible, and outlining more ambitious policies to get Australia there, would build confidence among business and the broader community.”

Another theme is the need to address inequality, which ANZ chief economist Richard Yetsenga said had been rising across many parts of the globe. Lower-paid roles are bearing the brunt of job losses in many nations, and the inequality implications of this will be one of COVID-19’s more important legacies.

“To address inequality in Australia, a permanent increase to the rate of JobSeeker is long overdue,” Ms Cilento said.

“It will do much to support the recovery, and as Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Phillip Lowe has said, it is a fairness issue.”

There are clearly many question marks hanging over this year. CEDA’s Economic and Political Outlook (EPO) 2021 provides valuable analysis to help policy makers and business respond to these issues.

This analysis will be complemented by a keynote speech by Australia's Ambassador to the US, the Arthur Sinodinos, who will share his insights into the US-Australia relationship, at the launch of the report.

The 2021 EPO will be launched at a two-day digital forum today  from 11am to 12.30pm and tomorrow, February 17, from 11am to 1pm (AEDT).

The economists and journalists who have contributed to this report are:

  • Political outlook: Phillip Coorey, Political Editor, Australian Financial Review
  • Domestic economic outlook: Alan Oster, Group Chief Economist, NAB
  • Policy outlook: Cassandra Winzar, Senior Economist, CEDA
  • International economic outlook: Richard Yetsenga, Chief Economist and Head of Research, ANZ Banking Group

In addition to the authors, speakers include Australia's Ambassador to the United States, Arthur Sinodinos, in conversation with ABC Insiders host David Speers; Griffith Asia Institute director, Prof. Caitlin Byrne; ANU Australian Centre on China in the World director, Prof. Jane Golley; ABC RN Breakfast presenter, Fran Kelly; and Asialink Business chief executive Mukund Narayanamurti.

Download the report here

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THE MOST DETAILED planning review of the city centre in more than four decades is set to play a critical role in Sydney's recovery from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the City of Sydney’s Central Sydney Planning Strategy provided a long-term vision that would promote job creation and economic growth, "while protecting the inner-city’s heritage and public spaces".  

“By providing for buildings taller than 300m and creating increased employment space, while ensuring high-quality design and protecting our important public places, this strategy provides a vision for the city’s commercial, residential and recreational future,” Cr Moore said.

“Our communities, businesses, landowners and industries have all had the opportunity to contribute to the development of this strategy. It will help us lay the foundations for the city’s recovery from the devastating economic and social impacts of the coronavirus and maintain Sydney’s status as an attractive place for business investment. 

“Following extensive consultation and three years of block-by-block research, we are proud to present this blueprint for planning done well – allowing the city to grow with new skyscrapers that will also ensure sunlight continues to shine on treasured public spaces such as Hyde Park, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Martin Place and Wynyard Park. 

“This is about strengthening public open space, accessibility and connections to make moving around the city easier and more enjoyable for workers, residents and visitors. The new strategy uses extensive evidence-based work and considers the current and future needs of our city. 

“We will protect, enhance and expand Central Sydney’s heritage, public places and open spaces for all to use and enjoy," the Lord Mayor said.

“If we want Sydney to maintain its status as an economic powerhouse of innovation and collaboration, it’s vital we safeguard economic floor space while allowing residential development to continue in the city centre.”  

After community consultation and feedback during the public exhibition, the City has made changes to the planning framework. These include: 

  • phasing out the incentive for residential development of additional floor space over two years;
  • saving time by allowing a project to proceed to a detailed design development application (stage 2) based on the approval of the concept design;
  • excluding the northern part of the Kent St tower cluster around Gas Lane, which is a transition area between the residential character of Millers Point and the commercial centre;
  • removing the proposed additional 30m in height control in the same northern Kent Street area;
  • updating guidelines for site-specific planning proposals in central Sydney to allow landowners to lodge planning proposals.

To ensure local infrastructure keeps pace with growth, the council will ask the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces to amend the regulations to allow for a contributions levy of up to 3 percent to apply to new development. 

"This increased levy will fund new infrastructure to support the increase in floor space in the planning proposal and ensure Central Sydney remains an attractive place for investment," Cr Moore said.

She said other key elements of the strategy include supporting emerging designers and architects and promoting more women into design leadership roles to ensure central Sydney’s ongoing growth, success and equity.

www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

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THE formal establishment of the Australian Business Growth Fund is "excellent news for high growth potential SMEs" according to Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell.

The Australian Business Growth Fund, as recommended in the Ombudsman’s Affordable Capital for SME Growth report, will allow established small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with annual revenue between $2 million and $100 million, to apply for long-term equity capital investment of between $5 million and $15 million.

“Today’s launch of the Australian Business Growth Fund is fantastic news for high growth potential SMEs who require essential long-term equity finance to flourish,” Ms Carnell said. 

“The fund will fill the critical gap, identified in our Affordable Capital for SME Growth report, for patient capital to enable our up-and-coming SMEs to succeed.

“While businesses need to demonstrate three years of revenue growth and profitability, there are allowances in place for the impact of the COVID crisis on recent business performance," Ms Carnell said.

“Importantly the fund has appointed Anthony Healy as CEO and Will Hodgman as chairman and will be managed by private sector expertise. 

“Minority shareholding of between 10 percent and 40 percent will enable these promising businesses to retain control of their company, while providing the funds they need to invest in growth.

“Similar models in the UK and Canada are tried and tested – overcoming barriers to accessing affordable capital for businesses that have gone on to demonstrate successful growth," she said.

“We welcome both the Federal Government investment in the fund, along with the major banks and financial institutions’ contribution.

“The fund is valued at $540 million and we welcome the ambition to grow the fund to $1 billion as it matures.

“In supporting our high growth potential SMEs, the Australian Business Growth Fund will play a significant role in encouraging business growth and economic recovery at a time when we need it most.”

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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RETAIL discounts, live music, fresh food and chilled drinks are all part of a three-day Brisbane shopping festival that aims to boost CBD businesses and encourage local and visitor support.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said the popular Shop BNE City is returning for three days starting this Friday, tempting shoppers back to the Queen Street Mall as it continues to rebuild following the economic impacts of the global coronavirus pandemic.

“Queen Street Mall was one of the shopping precincts hardest hit by coronavirus, with a severe downturn in foot traffic hurting inner-city traders,” Cr Schrinner said.

“Shop BNE City is bringing out all the stops to encourage residents and visitors to head into the city to dine, drink and shop with a whirlwind three-days of exclusive retail discounts, pop-up bars and live entertainment. 

“To ease the holiday blues, Next Hotel will open its pool up to the general public, transforming into an urban oasis with live music and food and drink offers, while Jimmy’s on the Mall will transform into an Italian-inspired garden," Cr Schrinner said.

“Queen Street Mall will feature retro themed departure lounges, while the Wintergarden will put local musicians front and centre at the City Sounds Live Music Stage.”

Cr Schrinner said Shop BNE City was now entering its fifth year, but believed this year was "the most important event to date".

“Our local businesses are crying out for support and as a city we need to all do our part and buy local,” he said.

“Coronavirus forced many businesses to shut their doors earlier this year, but their doors are back open and they are ready to welcome people back.

“Events like this are a great incentive to draw people back into our retail and entertainment precinct and to give our local traders the support they need and deserve as they get back on track post coronavirus," Cr Schrinner said.

“With Christmas around the corner, this is a perfect time to get organised and get in early to do some Christmas shopping and take advantage of over 70 exclusive offers that will be available over the three-day event.

“I encourage everyone to pencil this event into their diary and head into the CBD. There’s so much on offer and it could bring the financial boost so many of our businesses desperately need right now.”

Shop BNE City will be held from Friday October 30 to Sunday November 1. 

www.bnecity.com.au/shop

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BLUE ENERGY Limited has commended yesterday’s announcement by the Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, that the Queensland Government would invest $5 million in a concept study to investigate the feasibility and options for a new transmission pipeline south, to connect the Bowen Basin’s gas reserves to the east coast of Queensland.

The commitment was contained in yesterday’s release of  the Queensland Economic Recovery Plan by the Premier.

Blue Energy has regularly commented on the enormous gas resource that has already been discovered in the North Bowen Basin. This basin has been producing gas north to Townsville manufacturers and electricity generators via the 273mm diameter North Queensland Gas Pipeline, since 2005.

The Bowen Basin contains independently verified (ACCC Jan 2020) gas resources of up to 15,000 petajoules (PJ) which, if fully developed via a new southern pipeline, could supply the east coast domestic gas market for up to 30 years.

Blue Energy said in doing so, it would act to lower east coast gas prices to end users, and importantly, enable manufacturers and gas users to enter long term gas contracts and give certainty of gas supply and price, for decades. This in turn would encourage expansion and growth of existing manufacturers and entry of new manufacturers to establish themselves in Queensland. 

This will mean more jobs in Queensland, Blue Energy managing director John Phillips said.

"Gas is not only used for low emission electricity generation, but is essential as a feed stock for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, plastics, explosives, bricks, glass, fertilizer, PPE, and many more products, all of which are integral parts of the modern economy," Mr Phillips said. 

Brisbane based Blue Energy has 3,000PJ of gas resource in its 100 percent owned tenements around Moranbah.. It currently has Production Licence Applications with the Queensland Government with the view to supply gas into the domestic markets, both into Townsville and to the south, once the southern pipeline is built.

"Along with extending a lifeline to struggling Australian east coast manufacturers and helping rebuild the economy, post the COVID induced economic contraction, long term gas supply from the Bowen Basin will be critical to firm up the large renewable energy project roll out mandated in Queensland," Mr Phillips said.

"This will not only provide reliable dispatchable synchronous firming generation for the 50 percent renewable generation target set by the state, but could also provide a significant portion of the other 50 percent of electricity generation that is not renewable, and give the workers currently in the coal fired generation sector a 'just transition' to gas industry jobs.

"Blue looks forward to additional detail on the scope of the Bowen gas pipeline study being proposed by the government, and stands ready to assist," Mr Phillips said.

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