Committee Communiqué

Melbourne – world leading international student city

Yesterday, Committee for Melbourne released Melbourne  ̶  a prosperous future: World-leading international student city. This paper is a comprehensive strategy document that identifies priorities for improving Melbourne’s brand and value proposition as a destination for international students from both an educational and living perspective. The paper is the culmination of two years of continuous consultation and discussion with members, (in particular our member universities), and other key stakeholders, including direct feedback from international students themselves. Melbourne has some serious strengths in the international student space. Our education institutions are world-class and our liveability is second to none, but there are some significant issues facing Melbourne in terms of the competitiveness of our offering. In The Australian yesterday, CEO Kate Roffey noted we do have many advantages, but as other countries and cities around the world become more aggressive in their chase for international students, we most certainly cannot afford to be complacent. The Committee’s paper outlines key priorities and strategies for building on Melbourne’s strong brand as a student city.

Members lunch with Richard Bolt

This week, Richard Bolt, Secretary of the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, joined Committee for Melbourne members over lunch to discuss a range of issues pertinent to the ‘super-department’. In a wide ranging conversation, issues around transport infrastructure and the management of the project pipeline, regional city connections with Melbourne, renewable energy targets and provision of affordable and reliable energy, agri-business, and stronger links between education options and jobs, were discussed. One of the most important points of the discussion was recognition of the fact that the Victorian economy has underperformed across a range of measures – growth, productivity, employment – for the past few years and that needs to change. Importantly, it was agreed that a strong dialogue and partnership with business and the community is critical if the government is to achieve the economic development outcomes they aim for. What was clear is that although this is a big department, the advantage is the breadth of portfolios covered encourages some well linked-up thinking around strategies that cross the traditional style silo boundaries of the past – and linking up our thinking will be crucial to really driving forward the agenda that will see our economy turn around going forward.

International education on government radar

On Tuesday, the Andrews Government started their conversation about growing jobs and prosperity in the state’s international education sector with the release of the International Education Discussion Paper as part of the $200 million Future Industries Fund. The discussion paper outlines nine strategic directions to guide consultation. Through these nine areas there is a recognition that all parts of the international education ‘value chain’ can benefit from strategic interventions and engagement. Notably, the key issues raised for discussion in the Government’s paper are issues covered off in the Committee’s strategy paper. This strong synergy provides an excellent opportunity for the Government and the Committee to work together to deliver on strategies that will make a difference. The Committee has already undertaken a number of discussions with Minister Steve Herbert and the Department around issues we can collectively work on, with some of the priority topics like accommodation and access to jobs and work experiences already coming to the fore. The Committee will be working with members on a number of these issues in the coming months. Minister Herbert will join us for a members’ lunch on 13th August – so for those with an interest in this space, mark the date in your diary.

Infrastructure – the necessary disruptor

Public Transport Victoria, in conjunction with Yarra Trams, have started the comprehensive process of engaging stakeholders in discussions around necessary changes that will be made to tram routes as we prepare to undertake works for the Melbourne Metro rail project. In order to complete tunnelling works under Swanston Street for the Metro rail line, tram services will be redirected off Swanston Street beyond Flinders Street station to Elizabeth Street. The closure of Swanston Street to tram traffic will also allow for some of the services along St Kilda Road to be directed further west to help provide a much needed boost to North-South services at the western end of the city. As with any major work, there will unfortunately be disruptions to the norm for some. It is crucial however, that at this critical juncture in the process of building the infrastructure we need to ensure our growing city can continue to service all the people who live here, that this is a discussion that focuses on the greater good. Any major work in an established area is disruptive, but we need to move forward, and that means accepting the pain to get the gain.

Property tax – the key to economic efficiency?

In their recently released report, Property Taxes, the Grattan Institute have argued a more efficient tax levied on property holdings could eventually replace stamp duty as a revenue generator. Many consider stamp duty to be one of the most inefficient taxes in use. The Grattan Institute proposes that a tax imposed on the value of property would be a fairer way of funding health and education services, and positive in an economic sense because they don’t distort incentives to work, save or invest. According to Grattan, a levy of $2 for every $1,000 of unimproved land value, or $1 for every $1,000 of capital improved property value, would raise around $7 billion a year. On this basis, a homeowner living in a median-priced Sydney home of $772,000 would pay a levy of $772 annually, and a Melbourne equivalent $560. Those on low incomes with no wealth would pay nothing, while low-income retirees with valuable houses would pay nothing until their house is sold. Grattan estimates that a broad-based property tax would spread the tax burden more fairly, and add $9 billion annually to GDP.

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