08/10/15

Committee Communiqué

Infrastructure Victoria Board

The Andrews Government yesterday announced the independent members of the newly established Infrastructure Victoria Board. JimMiller, former of Head of the Australian Infrastructure, Utilities and Renewables Team at Macquarie Capital, will take on the role as inaugural Chair of the Board. Maria Wilton, Managing Director of Franklin Templeton Investments Australia, was appointed Deputy Chair. Well-known Melburnian ProfessorMargaret Gardner, former Vice-Chancellor and President of RMIT and now President and Vice-Chancellor of Monash University also joins as an independent Director, along with CEO of Carnival Australia, Ann Sherry. As announced previously, there are also three ex-officio positions on the Board which are currently filled by Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet Chris Eccles, Secretary of the Department of Treasury and Finance David Martine, and Secretary of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Adam Fennessy. In a significant undertaking, Infrastructure Victoria's first task will be to develop a 30 year infrastructure strategy detailing short, medium and long-term needs and priorities by the end of next year. From this independent strategy, the government will develop a five  year infrastructure planoutlining its priority projects and funding commitments.

Universities call for a prosperity re-think

In new research commissioned by Universities Australia, Deloitte Access Economics has placed a value of $160 billion a year onuniversity research – a figure equivalent to 10 per cent of GDP andmore than the entire value of the mining industry.  As part of a plan for a 'radical re-think and commitment from government to create the conditions for prosperity to flourish', Universities Australia is calling for a major technology and innovation program (similar to the United Kingdom's Catapult centres) to link universities with businesses, a 'Student Innovation Fund' to encourage university students to be more entrepreneurial, and a premium tax concession rate for businesses collaborating with universities on R&D. Results which show that Australia has dropped from 6th to 24th out of 25 developed countries for the share of GDP devoted to tertiary education over the past two decades, clearly indicate we need to do more. As Australia’s ‘University City’, Melbourne has a vested interest in ensuring higher education is given every opportunity to flourish.

Are polycentric cities the answer?

The Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) has released a new report which raises the idea of the 'polycentric city' as a solution to the urban sprawl and congestion problems we now face. The issues highlighted in the report are not new. We know we have an ‘urban sprawl’ problem resulting from rapid population growth and increased house prices in and around the inner city areas. To cope with growth, and create some semblance of affordability, there has been a rapid increase in developments in outer urban areas recently, however, in the absence of commensurate jobs growth in these areas and a lack of supporting infrastructure, residents face long commutes to inner-city jobs. This creates congestion and diminishes the sense of ‘liveability’. To solve this problem, the polycentric city is proposed as a possible option. This is not a new concept. In fact, the idea is a key component of Plan Melbourne. In theory, the idea is sound, however, we continue to struggle to turn this concept into reality on the ground.

Energy demand is driving change

According to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), energy infrastructure operators will face an increasingly challenging task ofsupplying energy in the future because the simple supply and demand metrics of the past have become more complex as factors such as environmental regulation, carbon emissions, green advocacy and the growing and powerful concept of social licence figure more prominently. AEMO note that while the demand for electricity used to follow GDP, since 2009, it has broken free of the broader economic cycle and become more closely linked to individual choices regarding power usage. AEMO says the infrastructure picture changed as a result of consumer education about power consumption, better insulation in homes, more efficient white goods and light bulbs, and the popularity of solar power and water heating. Going forward, AEMO believe the infrastructure build for Australia's power supply will be largely renewables, with the most important investment potential being in storage technology. This could significantly lower the cost of solar and wind which currently have very expensive  generation costs.

Migrant knowledge workers survey

Earlier this year, the University of Canberra’s Dr Richard Hu joined Committee for Melbourne members to discuss Melbourne’s capacity to attract global talent. A key finding of his research showed that Sydney rates ahead of Melbourne as a first stop for international talent, but the resultsare reversed when looking at the mouvements of knowledge workers domestically. DrHu’s Globalisation and Cities Research Program is now following on from their previous research to better understand the attributes and dynamics of migrant knowledge workers in the Greater Melbourne region. The Committee has often spoken about the importanceof Melbourne’s competitiveness and its links to our highly-prized liveability. The gradualshift away from labour-intensive industries towards knowledge-based sectors, such as high-tech manufacturing and financial and business services, along with rising skills requirements within occupations, are placing a premium on our ability to attract and retain this highly mobile talent pool. To help improve Melbourne’s talent management opportunities, take part in the Global Talent survey which is facilitated by the Committee for Melbourne, the City of Melbourne and the University of Canberra's Globalisation and Cities Research Program.

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