22/06/2021 - 14:00

Digesting the view from the west

22/06/2021 - 14:00

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What Western Australians think of our capital and its place in the world has changed notably in recent years, mainly in the positive.

Most residents of Perth accept that our remote and isolated state’s benefits outweigh the negatives. Photo: David Henry

With the second edition of our Promoting Perth series released late last month, the timely release of further research by the Committee for Perth gives great insight into the thinking of the city’s residents.

In the main, it is clear that the global trauma of COVID-19 has assisted the Perth brand, so to speak, as those surveyed are generally more positive about the state’s capital in all respects.

Two standout findings of the latest research are residents’ views on the city’s safety and, from a business perspective, the fact people are less likely to consider leaving Perth in the future.

Most residents of Perth – obviously including the 600 or so interviewed for the 2021 Perth Perception Survey by Ipsos – accept that our remote and isolated state’s benefits outweigh the negatives.

And it’s not just ongoing issues with COVID-19 in developing countries such as India that underscore this.

Many people are rethinking their criticisms of living here given the bleak news from the UK, Italy, Spain and the US, and even Singapore.

In my opinion, this survey simply shows that Perth has been re-rated by its residents because we have learned that technology has overcome most of the communications hurdles with the rest of the world.

And if everyone is housebound and travel restricted, then this is where you want to be.

Furthermore, that superficial introspection has led to further discoveries such as: ‘the jobs here are pretty good, actually’; ‘mining isn’t such a bad industry when you come to think of it’, and ‘we do a lot more than mining here, in any case’.

While these are my view on other people’s thoughts, even Perth’s most fervent boosters must have had such revelations at some stage, including me.

The survey has been conducted on several occasions during the past decade, but the 2021 version is the first that covers the pandemic era.

Most of the comparisons it makes are with 2018, the most recent previous version.

However, and disturbingly, there are some unfavourable comparisons in terms of respondents’ satisfaction with living in Perth, with those in 2018 more satisfied than the 2021 cohort and, importantly, more likely to recommend this city as a place to live.

That is astounding, after COVID-19, and shows that Promoting Perth has a role to play in helping residents understand and sell this great place.

I might add that the cost of living here is still seen as high.

In some ways that cost, which is only partially true, in my view, is a key element in why we feel safer.

A good health system, a reliance on car travel, low-density sprawl and expensive overseas and interstate travel might seem a high price to pay for our lifestyle in the good times.

But right now, I think we all recognise that some of those factors have mitigated the chances of being hit hard by the pandemic.

Anyway, I recommend you look through this survey and draw your own conclusions from what I regard as one of the most illuminating and useful research projects I have followed.

IR costs

I have followed with interest the challenges faced by the global group of companies led by Sanjeev Gupta.

To be fair, I’ve been cynical in terms of the business model he used.

That the Gupta group could come undone due to an over-reliance on one fringe funder, Greensill Capital, was not what I expected (but was not that surprising).

However, what has been revelatory is how profitable the Whyalla Steel Works and related operations are.

Bought by the Gupta group from administrators are few years ago, Whyalla was seen as a perennial basket case, constantly requiring life support from governments.

It seems that various arrangements with employees to take cuts in pay and conditions to save their jobs, both before and after Gupta’s arrival, may be the key.

The business is proving manufacturing can be profitable in Australia. And with Gupta in trouble, those operations, at least, are looking likely to be saved.

If only such balance had been found between employees and capital owners in the car industry, we might still be mass producing them in Australia.

The next edition of Promoting Perth 'Open to Investment' will be out on June 28. 

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