For more than a century, regional Western Australia has been the engine room of the State’s economy generating as much as 90 per cent of export earnings.
For more than a century, regional Western Australia has been the engine room of the State’s economy generating as much as 90 per cent of export earnings. Most of this is on the back of a number of industries that are, by virtually any measure, global leaders in knowledge creation and dissemination.
Despite this, there tends to remain a popular misconception that knowledge economies are exclusively urban. If asked to describe such an economy, most business leaders are likely to point to examples from San Francisco, Boston and Cambridge. It’s doubtful that Wongan Hills, Narrogin and Karratha are likely to rate a mention.
This is despite the evidence of enormous gains in regional productivity and competitiveness as a result of a culture of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurism across key sectors.
In agriculture, the development and adoption of new technologies and the willingness to adapt to changing markets, trade policies and climatic conditions have transformed the industry. The quantity and quality of output in agriculture has never been higher.
The State’s resource sector also leads the way in areas such as exploration geoscience, resource engineering, software development and robotics and automation. New industries in advanced manufacturing, alternative energy and value adding are also driving employment and export growth.
The expertise, skills and intellectual property developed in regional economies have become industries in their own right. Cutting-edge solutions developed and perfected in our own regions are widely exported to the world.
The question that follows is how we maintain the long-term success of these regional economies. A critical first step is to ensure that they are supported with the infrastructure, services and skills that befit a globally significant knowledge economy.
The quality of digital and physical infrastructure lags that of our overseas competitors. Finance for business incubation is scarce, and ensuring availability of skilled labour remains a critical issue. There is also the ongoing need to enhance equity of access to health care, education and other services. Importantly, sense of community and place are also central ingredients underpinning regional innovation.
None of this demands a return to the bush socialism of years gone by. Rather, it requires a recognition of the need for coordinated, multi-sector regional strategies that underpin some of Australia’s most entrepreneurial and creative industries and regions. The return on this investment will be worth every cent.