The South Australia government has embraced wholesale changes proposed in a root and branch review of the state’s industry policies as part of an ambitious plan to triple economic growth. Skills development, investment in tech and innovation, as well as dramatic structural changes to the public sector all feature prominently.
The proposals are among 59 recommendations made in a major review of the South Australian government and strategies for improving economic growth.
The review of the South Australian government’s international and interstate engagement bodies and functions was undertaken by former New Zealand Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce.
The government has accepted 56 recommendations in full, including simplifying its government structures and setting clearer sectoral goals.
“My government was elected on a platform of revitalising the South Australian economy, with a much greater focus on growing our exports to help create more jobs,” said Premier Steven Marshall.
“Our response to this review will realign departmental structures and clarify the responsibilities of economic agencies charged with supporting our export growth and encouraging business investment across all industry sectors in South Australia.”
As part of the review, Mr Joyce recommended the development of the South Australian Growth Agenda to help prioritise, coordinate, and publicise major individual projects and actions of government to encourage economic activity and investment in the state.
He said the Agenda should consist of four policy streams: investment and markets, skills and innovation, natural resources, and infrastructure.
“The successful execution of the Growth Agenda approach will speed up cross-government decision-making and sustain the reform agenda for a period of years,” Mr Joyce wrote.
“That will be necessary if the new government is to turn around the long-term downward trajectory of the state’s economy in comparison with the rest of Australia.”
In addition, the Agenda would keep businesses informed of government’s programs.
“The Government recognise that lifting investment in South Australia will require the private sector to have ongoing confidence in the Government’s economic program,” the review said.
“The Government will need to provide both strong visibility and regular updates on cross government economic policies, programmes and projects, and have regular dialogue with industry about the key policy priorities for encouraging investment growth.”
Following a scan of the state’s existing sectors, the review indicated that appropriate IT infrastructure, access to venture capital and research, as well as a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem are potential growth constraints on the hi-tech sector, which includes industries such as FinTech, MedTech, cyber security, autonomous vehicles and advanced manufacturing.
Meanwhile, availability of a qualified workforce and adequate supply chain capabilities are potential hinders on growth of the defence and space industries.
The review also recommended that the Department for Industry and Skills be re-named to the Department for Innovation and Skills to reflect its focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and developing a skilled workforce.
Adding immigration policy to the newly renamed agency was also recommended. Mr Joyce said the change would help build a skilled workforce and allow South Australian companies to have a one-stop shop to visit when they need skills to be filled, rather than the two they have now.
The review also recommended that the department become the lead agency in charge of the Lot 14 Innovation Precinct, on the former Royal Adelaide Hospital site, and that the Minister for Innovation and Skills to be the lead minister for the precinct. Currently, it’s being overseen by the state’s Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Once these recommended changes had been made, Mr Joyce said government look to strengthen the relationship between DIS and the universities to support research and commercialisation.
Mr Marshall said the government accepted the role of the Department for Innovation and Skills would focus on skills, innovation, research, entrepreneurship, start-ups and small business.
“With the establishment of the Australian Space Agency headquarters at Lot Fourteen, alongside established defence companies as well as tech startups, innovation will be at the heart of industry and employment growth in the coming years and decades in SA,” Mr Marshall said.
“Acting upon the recommendations of the Review will ensure we have the best possible structures and resources in place to support South Australian businesses in their efforts to drive export growth and create more jobs.”
The review also acknowledged the Marshall government, which was elected in March last year, “has made a good start, but it will take a sustained and disciplined approach for the state’s competitiveness and future fortunes to change.”