27/08/15

Committee Communiqué

Member lunch with The Hon. John Eren MP

Today, Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Sport and Veterans, John Eren, joined Committee for Melbourne members over lunch to discuss issues of importance to sport and the visitor economy. A major focal point of the discussion was the integration of a number of standalone bodies (VMEC, Tourism Victoria and MCB) into an integrated entity that will have a common purpose of better branding and positioning the Melbourne and Victoria brands both domestically and globally. It was pleasing to note that the important contribution the Melbourne brand makes to both international tourism and global positioning is recognised by the government and will continue to have a strong presence going forward. It is also positive to see the government is looking to ensure 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.

Borrowing to build

When interest rates are at a record low, we have to ask: will there ever be a better time for a government to consider borrowing to invest in the future? According to Treasurer Tim Pallas it would be irresponsible for the government not to consider increased borrowing to boost the economy. Last year, economist Saul Eslake joined Committee for Melbourne members for a round table discussion around borrowing against the AAA rating. According to Saul, at that time both the Victorian and Federal governments could afford to borrow well into the billions of dollars, and still not impact the AAA rating. Tim Pallas is also of the opinion that there is head room in the finances to borrow. This is certainly a conversation we need to be having, however, this needs to be a sensible and measured conversation that is focused on the key consideration of borrowing only for the right investments. This means we need to start with a clear agreement on a prioritised pipeline of productivity enhancing infrastructure projects that are worthy of funding in the first place.

National reform signals need for tough conversations

As the National Reform Summit continues in Sydney, some of the key takeouts thus far focus on the need to improve economic growth and jobs, and to reform principles across four key areas – productivity; growth and workforce participation; tax reform; fiscal policy and sustainable retirement incomes. While most seem to be on the same page with regard to what needs to change, we are still a long way from consensus on what actual changes should be made, and who is responsible for ensuring these changes happen. In an opinion piece in Wednesday’s Financial Review, former head of Treasury Martin Parkinson questioned whether or not Australia has a genuine understanding of the need to change. Parkinson believes we are in denial about the risks facing our standard of living because we are not having the difficult conversations that we need to have and lack a clear road map for the future. In the absence of a burning platform, the question remains where will the drive to make the changes we need come from?

Silo approach creating poor urban planning

At our recent Melbourne 2050 conference, one of the key themes that arose when considering whether or not Melbourne will be a city of 8 million was the need for a much more coordinated and integrated planning process. AECOM technical director Joe Langley has echoed this sentiment this week, noting that a siloed approach that gives state transport, finance and treasury agencies all the authority, and excludes public and private sector skills in urban planning, development and urban renewal on major projects, is having a major impact on Sydney's housing shortfall. As reported in the Financial Review, Langley notes that failure in particular to tie housing creation to new public transport developments will leave the New South Wales capital with a housing shortfall of nearly 200,000 by 2024. This goes to the core of the issue of requiring more integrated land use planning to ensure that we provide both the economic and social infrastructure necessary to ensure our cities retain high levels of economic prosperity and liveability.

Bulletproof vests may save the atmosphere

New research coming out of George Washington University in the US may hold the key to climate change. Scientists have developed a technique that could potentially take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transform it into carbon nanofibers. These nanofibers can then be used to make strong carbon composites similar to those used in highend sports equipment, commercial airliners and bullet proof vests. The USbased scientists are currently working to scaleup the process and estimate that with a physical area of less than ten percent the size of the Sahara Desert, this process could cut concentration of atmospheric CO2 to preindustrial levels within a decade. It’s a big scaleup from the current process of making tens of grams of nanofibers an hour, but the upside of the impact on CO2 levels certainly makes it worthwhile to turn this vision into a reality.

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