Welcome address: planning a productive future

| September 13, 2012

The Hon. Anthony Roberts MP, NSW Fair Trading Minister, opened the 2012 Global Access Partners’ National Economic Review 2012: Australia’s Annual Growth Summit at a dinner on Thursday 13 September 2012. He outlines the focus of improving productivity and the role it plays in his vision of making NSW Number 1 again.

This is the third in the series of economic growth summits organised by Global Access Partners, or GAP as we fondly know them, and it’s the second at which I’ve had the pleasure of delivering the welcome address.

Once again, the GAP team – superbly led by the exceptional Peter Fritz – has done an outstanding job in gathering some of Australia’s best and brightest.

It’s wonderful to see a room full of people eager to propel our economy into the future. I am confident we will all gain a lot from being here and I thank you for taking the time to attend.

It is very pleasing that productivity has been chosen as the theme for this year’s growth summit. Productivity is a theme that been driving the Liberals and Nationals Government since it came to power in early 2011, when we set out on the journey of Making NSW Number 1 Again.

It is a theme evident in the Government’s priorities in rebuilding the State’s economy by strengthening our finances, investing in critical infrastructure, increasing innovation and skills, and reducing the cost of doing business.

Indeed, improving productivity is at the very heart of the contract we made with the people of NSW when they elected us and which the Government outlined in the NSW 2021 Plan.

Over recent years, discussions of the Australian economy have tended to focus on the resources boom, which has been a major driver of growth.

However, while we may still be a world leader in terms of growth, we are at a point where it is critical to focus on long term planning to future proof our economy to withstand the challenges ahead.

Population growth, urban renewal and the ageing population are among the issues that we need to plan for to avoid critical housing shortages and increasing strain on infrastructure.

The NSW Government recently announced the establishment of a new Housing and Infrastructure Delivery Office within the Department of Planning and Infrastructure to drive housing delivery.

This is part of our commitment to provide more housing and jobs across the State.

In my portfolio of Fair Trading, we are about to enter the next stage of our comprehensive review of the strata and community title laws.

Soon you’ll be able to visit the NSW Fair Trading website and download a copy of our discussion paper, Making NSW No. 1 Again: Shaping Future Communities. The discussion paper follows from the highly successful partnership we formed with GAP in December last year to conduct an innovative online consultation forum as the first step in the review.

I once again thank the GAP team for its pioneering approach and outstanding work on this initiative. Through GAP’s Open Forum, members of the community engaged in a free flowing dialogue that captured their imagination and brought to light a range of views that might not otherwise have been heard.

A recurring theme in forum comments was the call for the laws to be updated to more effectively meet the needs of the sector today and into the future.

Back in 1961, the NSW strata laws were a world first. However, our status as a world leader has slipped. Over the coming months, I will be working with the community to create a set of laws we can take forward for the next 50 years that others around the world will look to once more as best practice.

In addition to strengthening our strata and community title laws, we are undertaking a full review of the home building legislation.

In 2010, the NSW construction industry accounted for 7.6 per cent of the state’s economy and Access Economics has forecast that this will rise to 8.4 per cent by 2020.

It is clear that the industry needs to be robust and healthy if it is to help us overcome predicted housing shortfalls and continue to contribute strongly to the economy.

Our first step in this area was passing the Home Building Amendment Act 2011 in October last year to help stimulate investment and activity in the NSW home building industry.

The NSW Government is also in the process of creating aplanning system for the 21st century, moving from a complex, over-regulated system to a simple, strategic and more flexible approach focussed on outcomes and orderly growth.

The planning system will support our priority of ensuring that NSW is the number one choice for business investment, and enable sustainable growth of our cities and towns.

I would also like to take the opportunity to briefly mention our commitment to removing unnecessary red tape burdens.

We have set ambitious targets and are making significant progress in reducing the cost of doing business in NSW.

Another area where I have a strong interest is our ageing population. This was discussed at last year’s Summit and I am keen to keep this on the agenda.

It is a major challenge facing governments throughout Australia and around the world. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has described the ongoing ageing trend as nothing less than a fundamental transformation. This throws a spotlight on the critical importance of planning ahead so that all levels of government, the community and industry are capable of delivering on the needs of older Australians.

There are some major projects underway in NSW that relate directly to meeting the needs of older members of our community. Some of these initiatives address immediate problems, while others focus on the long-term outlook.

To help local councils plan ahead to meet demand, the Government has just launched the Ageing Population toolkit. This toolkit will help local councils prepare for the changing demands on resources and community services that are an inevitable result of an ageing population.

Another initiative being co-ordinated by the Office of Ageing is the Towards 2030 strategy. The aim of the strategy is to help people, communities and businesses focus on planning and adapting for our changing population.

Last year I spoke about work that had just started on developing a set of standard terms for retirement village contracts. I have met many retirement village residents since becoming Minister for Fair Trading and have heard over and over again how difficult it is for them to understand their obligations because of the length and complexity of their contracts. It is vitally important that residents be able to effectively compare the costs, facilities and level of care available in different villages so they can make the right choice.

Since we consulted publicly on a draft contract earlier this year, my committee of experts has been working tirelessly and is close to completing the final version.

Not content with that however, they have offered to stay on board to look at how pre-contractual disclosure requirements can be streamlined to be more effective and relevant for residents, while reducing operator costs.

Over the course of this evening and tomorrow this Summit will create a think tank on the themes that are vital to promoting our continuing growth.I look forward to hearing the ideas and suggestions that will result as we look to grow Australia’s position in the region and beyond.

In conclusion, I would like to remind everyone that tonight’s event is taking place in the oldest Parliament in the country, located in its most liveable city. I have the privilege of representing a community located not far from where we sit tonight. It is a strong community typical of the goals, aspirations and successes upon which this country was built and will continue to build.

I am proud of the Lane Cove community and proud to represent its good people in this House of Parliament. For our international visitors, and for those who have travelled from interstate, I bid you a warm welcome to Sydney, capital of Australia’s Premier State.

Thank you again and I wish the Summit every success.

The Hon Anthony Roberts MP
is the NSW Minister for Fair Trading. Prior to becoming the Member for Lane Cove, he was Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Lane Cove Municipal Council.  Anthony proudly served with the Australian Army on peace keeping operations in Bougainville as part of Operation Bel Isi.  He was also an adviser to Prime Minister John Howard.