Australia’s economic challenge right now is filling the gap left behind from its once-in-a-generation mining boom that was fuelled by China’s demand.
The nation has a fresh prime minister in Malcolm Turnbull, who has talked about the country becoming “more agile” and embracing the challenges of the 21st century.
Whether the services-based sectors of the economy such as healthcare, tourism, education and technology can grow fast enough to replace the economic hole being left behind by the mining boom has been the big question hanging over the sustainability of Australia’s continuing economic growth.
After some wobbles earlier this year, it now looks like the picture is coming together. Employment is steady. Business conditions are picking up. Confidence is still lagging, but the all-important tourism sector is showing signs of a renaissance.
Many people believe high-growth companies, especially technology outfits in the major cities, could provide the filip the economy needs. And governments are trying to lay the groundwork.
The head of the NSW government, Mike Baird, today gave his first clear vision for the massive $20 billion redevelopment on waterfront land in Sydney’s inner west, revealing he wants to turn the disused, heritage-listed White Bay power station next to the Anzac Bridge, which straddles Sydney’s world-famous harbour, into a tech hub.
The Premier is looking at redeveloping 95 hectares area of government-owned land, dubbed the Bays Precinct, as part of the city’s largest urban renewal program since the Sydney Olympics.
He will announce the full details later this morning, but last night delivering the Bradfield Oration for The Daily Telegraph, Baird said that, inspired by tech hubs in London and San Francisco, the government will seek proposals to transform the rusting power station into the regional HQ of a global tech company or educational facility, with construction to begin in 2017.
“The industrial waterfront of Glebe Island and the White Bay Power Station will be transformed into a global centre for hi-tech jobs and innovation. It will be a place where global giants of technology and innovation cluster and connect with start-up entrepreneurs, business incubators and accelerators,” Baird said.
“Like London’s Tech City, New York’s Roosevelt Island, and California’s Silicon Valley, we can create Australia’s quantum harbour.”
NSW Health has also proposed creating a MedTech hub in the area.
“Over the next 25 years, the digital economy will grow as a share of the total economy from just over 5% now, to 22% in 2040,” Baird said.
The 5.5km stretch of shoreline from the Sydney Fish Market to the second cruise ship terminal in Balmain is set to be redeveloped over the next 30 years under the government’s plan, announced by Baird in July last year.
But during his address last night the premier flagged there may be resistance to some of his ideas.
“It is rare that anything significant comes easily. Big projects will face resistance every step of the way, but they are exactly what we need to put this city ahead of the curve,” he said.