09/04/15

Committee Communiqué

Victoria deserves fair share of GST

As state treasurers prepare to meet with federal counterpart Joe Hockey today, the issue of the GST horizontal fiscal equalisation process will be front and centre of the discussions. Under this formula, wealthier states forgo GST revenue, which is returned to smaller, less robust economies. Victoria is the only state in Australia that has consistently contributed more than we have received back over time, and now, along with NSW, we are the only state that still receives a less than equitable return. Victoria’s current return is just .88 cents in the dollar, compared to .98 cents in NSW. All other states receive well over the even dollar in return. Joe Hockey has indicated that NSW, in light of the election of the Baird government, has nothing to worry about. The Victorian Treasurer has quite rightly indicated that Victoria, which already gets a ‘poor deal on GST’, will not agree to any measure that further reduces our GST share. This is an important issue for Victoria and it is essential we lend a strong voice to the Treasurer in supporting this position.

A more contemporary approach to road tolls

The issue of introducing a more comprehensive user-pays system for road use was recently raised again by Transurban CEO Scott Charlton, including the oft-talked about concepts of time-tolling or charging per kilometre travelled. The problem with these blunt types of charges is fairness. They have the potential to hit users who live in outer urban areas, further from their jobs and with no reasonable alternative to road travel in the form of public transport access, much harder than those who live in inner city areas, who have good access to well established public transport, but who still choose the convenience of driving. Striking the balance of ensuring all those who benefit pay, while at the same time ensuring fairness, is difficult. There are many user-pays style systems that are being trialled or are in use overseas. Transurban has indicated they are prepared to investigate viable solutions to our congestion problems by undertaking a Road Network Pricing Study to test various road pricing models and provide tangible data to help progress options for a sustainable funding model.

Business headquarter growth a good sign

Latest reports from Savills indicate there are some encouraging signs of business growth in Melbourne with office leasing inquiries up 40 per cent over the first three months of 2015. Having a robust business centre that is attractive to major national and international businesses is a key factor in driving strong economic prosperity. According to Savills, tenancy inquiries are coming from a range of sectors, particularly property and business services, communication and finance, as well as insurance. This, combined with indications that the big four major Melbourne-based businesses – Telstra NAB, ANZ and the state government – are all set to take up more office space this year are good signs. Given that vacancy rates have been slowly but steadily increasing over the last few years, these first shoots of recovery are hopefully promising signs that business confidence is returning. And more importantly, that Melbourne is being viewed as a good city to either expand existing, or base new, business operations.

Melbourne – the place to be

Recently released ABS stats show that Melbourne attracts the greatest share of domestic migration across Australia. This is in stark contrast to the 80s and 90s, where Victoria suffered a net interstate migration loss of 153,000 people, in particular to Queensland and Western Australia. Over the past decade the tide has turned and last year Victoria recorded Australia’s strongest net migration with a gain of 8,800 residents. Metropolitan Melbourne in particular is a strong attractor, and of all the capital cities recorded the biggest net migration rate of 4,000 people. Putting aside the bragging rights, these movements also act as important economic indicators. It is probable that some of the reason for our positive net migration, particularly in people moving from Sydney, is being driven by the higher cost of housing and greater levels of congestion in our cross-border capital. However, if these migration trends continue to hold, they should indicate an underlying growth in jobs and an upturn in our economy, and as such these movements are an indicator well worth paying close attention to.

CfM – 30 years of commitment

2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Committee for Melbourne. For 30 years we have been committed to raising initiatives that have helped make Melbourne the world-leading city it is today. From Docklands to the fight to free up our skies for more international flights and privatise Melbourne airport; to the establishment of Melbourne’s credentials as a financial services sector and a festival city, the Committee’s membership has been sparking the ideas that have turned into the outcomes that have shaped Greater Melbourne. Next Thursday, we will hold our Annual Dinner to celebrate 30 years of collaborative contribution. Over 500 members and guests will join us to celebrate this occasion as we take the opportunity to christen the new Margaret Court Arena as the first corporate event to dine on the court. It will be a unique experience that will represent a major milestone in the journey of this unique membership-focused organisation. We look forward to having many of you join us next week.

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