Send Queensland in a new direction – or build on our strengths?
When businesses plan for the future, some risk it all on entirely new ideas, products and services, while others look at ways to improve their current offering.
As they say: high risk can lead to high reward, but what would one stand to lose if it fails? This is a question the State Government must ask itself when it lays down the roadmap for Queensland’s future next week.
With ‘innovation’ still rightly a hot topic for the Palaszczuk Government in the lead up to the State Budget, it will be interesting to see what balance there will be between a focus on technology businesses and start-ups, with assisting existing businesses and leading industries to grow and innovate.
As part of the Queensland Government’s $405 million Advance Queensland whole-of-government innovation agenda, $40 million was dedicated to the Advance Queensland Industry Attraction Fund making it the most funded initiative.
This initiative identified ‘emerging priority industries’ to be supported and targeted by the government. These were: advanced manufacturing, aerospace, biofutures, biomedical and life sciences, defence, and mining equipment, technology and services (METS).
These industries certainly help in diversifying our economy and are indeed knowledge-based jobs, but to what extent do they build on our competitive strengths?
In a recent Deloitte’s publication, FutureNow, there were five key “powerhouses of transformation” that were considered to be important to the state over the next 10 years: tourism, agriculture, education, health and ageing, and transformation in energy and resourcing.
Playing on Queensland’s ‘natural advantages’, these industries capitalise on the state’s ‘lucky’ geography, natural gas fields, and its ‘beautiful one day, prefect the next’ climate – complemented by built attributes like internationally renowned universities, health facilities and powerful agribusiness capacity.
Taking tourism as an example, it contributes $11.2 billion directly to the Queensland economy and employs 135,000 jobs (directly). It is the state’s third largest export, behind coal and food.
Furthermore, 9 in 10 tourism businesses are small businesses, and the majority of these are located in regional areas (61 per cent).
This is in comparison to the aerospace industry, which contributes around $600 million to the Queensland economy and provides about 4500 direct jobs in aircraft manufacturing and repair services.
With the utmost respect and recognition to the aerospace industry and its importance to the future of Queensland, the question here lies in how much the government should invest in their “emerging priority industries” and how much should be targeted in our current leading industries that have successfully developed and proven themselves over time.
In CCIQ’s State Budget Submission, we make our position clear that:
- Small business innovation policy should be developed to encompass all components and industries (not just high-tech) of the ecosystem rather than seeking to ‘cherry pick’ areas of special interest; and
- State Government should refocus on building from existing industries that have formed naturally within the region, together with seeking to generate new industries, and address the small business challenges that are barriers to growth.
There is always a risk when government is left to ‘pick winners’ and divert much of their attention and funding based on those preference. But as Roosevelt once said: Risk is like fire. If controlled it will help you, if uncontrolled it will rise up and destroy you.
Once the Budget is handed down, it will be interesting to see how much the government is willing to gamble on emerging industries, and how much support will be provided to our existing, successful industries and businesses.
Perhaps without a boost in the industries that are performing well for our state, we may see momentum slow and competitiveness diminished – and this is sure to ‘destroy’ what has made us great.