03/12/15

Committee Communiqué

The Big issues

Results of the annual CEDA Big Issues survey have been released, with incentivising innovation ranked as the number one priority for both improving Australia’s international competitiveness and for how the Federal Government should respond to an expected low growth environment. The CEDA survey aims to capture a snapshot of the business community’s views on the critical policy choices ahead, and the 2015 survey included bench marking questions around balancing the budget, Australia’s growth agenda and taxation policy. Addressing tax evasion ranked as the number one aim in the area of taxation reform while expenditure cuts in defense andwelfare as well as increasing revenue via the GST were primary budget recommendations. A consistent strategy for education that promotes the appropriate skills for driving Australia’s economic sustainability was seen as key to improving the nation's workforce capabilities, while key sectors predicted to provide future growth for our economy were education services, healthcare and agriculture. As always, the lack of long-term planning and commitment by government again ranked number one as the biggest factor hindering adequate provision of transport infrastructure.

Best student cities

Melbourne has maintained its place as the secondbest student city inthe world (behind Paris) in the QS Best Student Cities 2016 ranking, thanks to our great selection of highly ranked universities and outstanding ‘liveability’. Within the QS Best Student Cities ranking, Melbourne rated the highest score in the 'student mix' category, which is calculated based on the relative size and diversity of each city’s student population as well as levels of social inclusion and tolerance. Melbourne also scored highly in the 'employer activity' and 'desirability' categories which respectively look at the city’s institutions from the point of view of employers and the overall quality of living to be had in the city. The one area in which Australian cities did not rate highly is affordability due to relatively high tuition fees and high living costs. In July this year, the Committee released our extensive discussion paper on the international student sector, Melbourne – a prosperous future: World-leading international student city. As part of this paper, a series of strategies for improving our desirability as an international student destination were put forward. It is time to turn some of those ideas into outcomes so Melbourne ranks first in 2017.

Optimising Social Value Creation

Yesterday, Committee members joined Dr Hemanta Doloi from the University of Melbourne to discuss his model for assessment of the social impact of infrastructure programs. The Community Centric Project Assessment and Intervention model was created with a view to optimising Social Value Creation. Taking into account a range of project issues – design development, capital performance, economic welfare, socio-environment equity – as well as gathering data from stakeholders and interest groups, social network modelling is then undertaken. As a result of this analysis, the model can then determine who are, or in many cases who should, be the central and peripheral actors, and what the central and peripheral issues are. The model then helps determine whether or not those people and issues that should be the central focus, actually are. With this understanding in mind, interventions can be made with a view to bridging the gap between the perceived social value of a program versus the expected social value. It is a fascinating model for consideration, and one that potentially has many relevant uses going forward, in particular as there is a shift toward use of wider economic based assessment of infrastructure projects.

State Library goes digital

Over lunch this week, newly appointed State Library CEO Kate Torney outlined the plans for the significant redevelopment of the library. The five-year redevelopment, funded by a $55.4 million budget allocation from the Victorian Government and $28 million in philanthropic contributions, is scheduled for completion by 2020. Unbeknownst to many, there are areas of the library which are currently not in use so the redevelopment will focus on opening up these areas which will create an additional 1000m2 of space for public use. The Russell Street entrance will also be reopened, alongside a new major exhibition space as well as cafe, retail and visitor services. One of the most exciting elements of the redevelopment will be the establishment of an innovation hub. This hub will include a centre for entrepreneurship to support Victorian enterprises and a centre for digital media with eTown Hall facilities to provide access to the latest communication technologies and connect with regional centres as well as public libraries across the state.

AECOM addressing the gender pay imbalance

Too often we see yet another data set highlighting the gender pay imbalance but see very few initiatives around proactively doing something about it. Committee for Melbourne Foundation Member  AECOM has decided to tackle this issue head-on by putting dollars on the table. Indeed, to correct the gender pay gap, five per cent of AECOM’s annual salary review budget has been allocated specifically to ensure equal pay for the same job come remuneration review time. In addition, the salaries of all women while on maternity leave will also be reviewed as will ‘right-sizing’ the salary at the point of hire for all new female staff. According to Lara Poloni, Chief Executive of AECOM Australia and New Zealand (and first female to hold this role), this is not just about dollars, there is a cultural shift that also needs to take place. Lara acknowledges that while AECOM is on the way towards pay equality, there is still a long way to go. That may be so, but by proactively putting dollars on the table, AECOM have made a very good start.

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