Opinion: Defence can steer state into the future

DEFENCE spending has given Adelaide an economic edge but it’s what we build around this that can transform our future.

As PwC’s CityPulse report and The Advertiser have pointed out, a City Deal can help unlock this opportunity allowing us to build the infrastructure and create the educational and innovation environments needed to create a lasting legacy that will set us up for decades to come.

And as places such as San Francisco and Israel show, the high-tech developments demanded by defence can benefit our entire economy, turbo charging innovation in other industries such as space, mining and health.

If we get this right, the shift for young people – who have been brought up with the narrative that “there are no jobs in Adelaide” and that “to be successful, you need to move elsewhere” – will be monumental over the next decade.

It means our brightest and most talented can begin to make decisions about where to live elsewhere based on want rather than need.

It also means Adelaide’s attractiveness will soar among skilled migrants and smart people who have left our shores in search of high-tech global opportunities, driving population growth and economic activity.

This in turn will touch everyone in our community creating opportunities for young people starting careers in the trades to small business owners. The fact is that our economy has been given a $90 billion kickstart by the naval shipbuilding program and it is up to us to take full advantage of this.

We need to make sure local businesses are part of the defence supply chain, schools encourage students to study STEM subjects (science, technology engineering and maths) and tertiary education delivers people with the skills our new economy requires.

We need to plan and invest in housing, roads, light rail and other infrastructure so that as we grow, we maintain our competitive advantages and don’t lose the best parts about Adelaide such as relatively uncongested roads and affordable housing. We also need to capitalise on the innovation that defence spending can bring, making the oRAH a beacon for innovation with a hub and spoke model that links in sites such as Tonsley and Mawson Lakes.

Federal Defence Minister Christopher Pyne calls this our watershed moment and he’s right. PwC’s report has given us valuable insights.

Now it’s up to all of us – our three tiers of government, educational institutions, businesses and community groups – to work together on a City Deal that will be applauded by generations to come.

Originally published in The Advertiser 22 June 2018.