NBN and Australia’s future competitive position
Internet Australia has launched a campaign to encourage the Turnbull Government to abandon a copper based broadband strategy and reassess the NBN rollout. According to Internet Australia, the cost of building a fibre network will soon turn out to be close to the cost of continuing with copper. Furthermore, the current approach does not appropriately take into account the virtually unlimited upgrade potential of fibre. The NBN is a long-term infrastructural productivity and capacity project, which needs to be designed with the future in mind and not be affected by political cycles. This should not be a copper versus fibre debate, but a broader conversation about devising a longterm, sustainable competitive national strategy that will enable us to be an innovative nation unconstrained by uncompetitive broadband. The costs of successfully rolling out the NBN are significant; however the costs of not doing so will be overwhelmingly larger.
All is not quiet on the Western front
More than a million people will call Melbourne’s western suburbs home by 2031. In fact, Wyndham and Melton have overtaken the Gold Coast as Australia’s fastestgrowing region. Over 3,000 homes per year are being built in Wyndham – a rate of growth that will require a new primary school each year – and by 2036 Melton will house 315,000 people, which is roughly the size of Canberra today. The sheer growth numbers are a clear reminder of our need to be forward-thinking when it comes to urban sprawl. Melbourne’s West is generally under-serviced and will need far more supporting infrastructure and access to jobs to accommodate the influx of people. We must start thinking in a much more holistic way about our future or we will continue to see our transport system increasingly congested, our growth boundaries growing unchecked and our population growth rate continually outstripping the rate of jobs creation. We cannot be the ‘World’s Most Liveable City’ for only half the people who live here.
Student housing – a great opportunity
A large Carlton car park has been bought by a property developer with plans to build a $130 million, 700-bed student housing complex. With the numbers of international students converging to Melbourne once again on the rise, the student accommodation sector is taking off and attracting significant investor interest. Released in 2015, the Committee for Melbourne’s strategy paper on international education ‘Melbourne ̶ a prosperous future: World leading international student city’ identified access to suitable student accommodation as one of our city’s biggest drawbacks. International students often resort to pursuing sub-par housing options that are neither permanent nor secure. These issues significantly reduce our appeal and value proposition in a competitive international student market. And while the rise in student housing sounds promising, we must also make sure that we deliver accommodation with the appropriate amenity, connectivity and affordability that students require.
Tourism – an important economic contributor
Tourism Australia will soon launch its $40 million coastal and aquatic campaign in the Chinese market in an effort to further boost arrivals from Australia’s most lucrative inbound market. Last week, the ABS reported a 5.9 per cent rise in Chinese arrivals to 173.600 in the month of February. In fact, one in five visitors to Australia during that month came from mainland China. These latest figures are further evidence of the important contribution the tourism industry makes to the Australian economy and our city plays a key part in this. Indeed, the Melbourne brand is a significant contributor to both international tourism and our global positioning. Our visitor economy is important and we all play a part in ensuring the visitor experience in its entirety – from the moment of arrival at our international airports right through to the point of departure – is one of excellence.
Why so gloomy?
A recent survey established that consumers in Australia are among the gloomiest in Asia. In fact, our confidence ranking was more than 30 per cent below the regional average. This is a surprising result considering our nation managed to come out of the GFC relatively unscathed, has some of the strongest institutions in the world, and is part of a handful of countries with a AAA credit rating. Our cities are consistently rated among the most liveable in the world and we have been ranked second by the United Nation’s Human Development Index. Of course, there are always challenges to be met along the way. While negative media rhetoric can sometimes cloud our judgement, we must remember that there are many opportunities for Australia and its well-educated, flexible workforce – especially as the Asian Century takes hold. It’s important to keep things in perspective and think longterm to get ourselves ready and ensure a bright future.