GAP in 2017 – a year in review

| December 21, 2017

2017 has been a year of celebration for Global Access Partners – we turned 20 in July – and how spectacular these last twelve months turned out to be!

Our year of achievement started in January with a bold and visionary proposal by our expert Space Tiger Team. They called on the Australian Government to underline its commitment to innovation and growth by developing an internationally competitive domestic space industry worth $3 billion in annual exports by 2027.

In February, the ‘Heineken Report’ by the GAP National Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment emphasised some of the more challenging aspects of national electricity reform. The committee advocated a redesign of the National Electricity Market to align with Australia’s evolving demand profiles and grid technology.

During March, our blogging platforms Open Forum and First 5000 were upgraded with a fresh design and easier navigation, allowing us to streamline our digital content and bring more stories to our readers.

In April, in response to growing concerns over soaring house prices, our Open Forum launched a six-week online community consultation on housing affordability which delivered a host of recommendations to the NSW Government on what could be done – from better transport and curbs on foreign investment to alternative ownership models and innovative building methods.

In May, our second Recovery at Work roundtable welcomed major employers from the public and private sector to NSW Parliament House to consider opportunities for their employees to recover at work after a health issue or debilitating injury.

The same month, our work on alternative hospital funding models sparked a brief but intense ‘storm in a teacup’, after the leak of confidential taskforce papers. The incident proved that Australia needs more courage to debate difficult and complex issues, including radical proposals for reform. It also inspired us to re-examine the ‘Second Track’ process and its unique capabilities to encourage change. One of our teams is now compiling a general theory of the ‘Second Track’ to enable its broader application.

(Incidentally, our very first ‘Second Track’ taskforce, in pharmacogenomics, was created in 2007, exactly ten years ago – another important milestone for GAP. That project led to a wider adoption of genetic testing for breast cancer medicines in Australia, helping thousands of women and saving millions of dollars.)

A joint paper with PwC, released in June, argued that Sydney can become an international innovation hub to rank alongside London, Singapore and Seattle by building on its social, economic and lifestyle assets. A strategic plan for the city could help realise its potential for innovation as well as growth.

In July, GAP established the International Centre for Democratic Partnerships (ICDP) – an independent, non-profit, non-political organisation to facilitate dialogue and better relationships between emerging leaders in the Pacific and Australia from government, civil society and the private sector. The same month marked GAP’s 20th birthday and the 10th anniversary of Open Forum.

In August, building on the ideas of the Space Tiger Team and recommendations of the 2016 GAP Innovation Summit, we outlined a new model for a national space agency in our Australian Space Initiative report to government. GAP and the whole space science community were thrilled to hear the announcement of the government’s plans for a space agency at the International Astronautical Congress in September.

September saw two other highlights of the whole GAP year. In Samoa on 8 September, Prime Minister Turnbull announced Pacific Connect – a two-year $2 million pilot program to strengthen Australia’s relationships in the South Pacific. We won the tender to implement Pacific Connect, in partnership with the Strategic Development Group, and are now working with ICDP on the theme of ‘Australia-Pacific Connections for the Digital Future’.

Our 8th Annual Economic Summit was held at the NSW Legislative Assembly Chamber on 7-8 September and discussed midsize businesses. These hidden giants of the Australian economy employ 2.5 million people and contribute almost a quarter of Australia’s GDP. GAP has long argued that midsize firms have very different needs from the mass of smaller ‘SMEs’ and require their own category for political and planning purposes. The Summit’s recommendations to boost the size and vitality of the sector were released in October.

Back in Australia, the GAP Taskforce on Cyber Security delivered its final report Protecting the New Frontier’ in November. As cyber attacks continue to escalate in number and sophistication, our expert members highlighted the ‘human factor’ as the weakest link in ICT security and called for a single home affairs portfolio or a strengthened Attorney-General’s Department to assume responsibility for all cyber security related activities.

As we look back on a very successful 2017, we want to recognise the invaluable contribution of our 4,133 members and 118 partners – the powerhouse behind every GAP initiative. Without you and your enthusiasm, knowledge, talent, fresh thinking and goodwill, none of this could have been possible.

We would also like to thank our financial supporters this year: Capital Markets CRC, CAANZ, Cognizant, CSIRO; Federal Departments of Employment, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Health, and Industry, Innovation and Science; DXC Technologies, Early Childhood Australia, EY, Herbert Smith Freehills, icare NSW, Johnson & Johnson Australia, NSW Departments of Education, Family and Community Services, Industry, Planning & Environment, Premier and Cabinet, and State Insurance Regulatory Authority; Open Colleges, PwC, SAP Australia, TCG, University of Wollongong, Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Westpac, and WorkSafe Victoria.

In 2018, we will focus on digital trade through our new National Standing Committee on Digital Trade, the 9th Annual Economic Summit on Digital Trade, ICDP and Pacific Connect. We are also launching two brand-new projects – Australia’s Health 2040 and a taskforce on skilled volunteering. We will continue to champion the Australian midsize business sector and work with our teams on early childhood education, productive ageing, energy reform, and courage and innovation in decision making.

Twenty years is a long time for any business, but my vision of GAP is that of a young and growing organisation, whose drive for positive change is supported by the very best of Australian and international expertise and a strong belief in a better future for all.

On this optimistic note, I wish you all a fantastic year ahead and look forward to working with each and every one of you in 2018.

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Catherine Fritz-Kalish is the co-founder and General Manager of Global Access Partners (GAP)  Catherine has coordinated of a number of international initiatives for the SME unit of the OECD at its headquarters in Paris and worked for the George Weston Foods Group and the TCG Group of Companies.