16/04/2008 - 22:00

Local focus in 2020 vision quest

16/04/2008 - 22:00


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Education, housing, business regulation and the skills shortage are just a handful of topics that will be touched on this weekend at the 2020 Summit in Canberra.

Local focus in 2020 vision quest

Education, housing, business regulation and the skills shortage are just a handful of topics that will be touched on this weekend at the 2020 Summit in Canberra. But for one delegate from Western Australia, a recent budget cut to the statistics sector will be a focal point. 

Curtin University’s Professor Fiona McKenzie will use her 2020 Summit platform to voice concern over the planned funding cuts to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Of particular concern is the plan to use the same questions from the 2006 Census in the upcoming 2011 Census, a move Professor McKenzie said would not paint a true picture of Australia.

Professor McKenzie, who will be a participant in the rural industries and communities forum, said the absence of new questions to the 2011 census could further disadvantage regional and rural Australia.

“From a WA point of view, there were many things we wanted changed for the 2011 Census and some new inclusions,” Professor McKenzie told WA Business News.

“Most importantly, information about FIFO and second home ownership would be of great assistance to WA, mining companies, communities where people are leaving and those communities people are working in.

“Local government and the Regional Development Commissions should be up in arms about the cuts, as the grants commission and local government funding is largely based on ABS data; it is a resource we should be strengthening not undermining.”

Professor McKenzie will also push for a better understanding by governments of the lifestyles of non-city dwellers, so as to avoid the homogenous classification of rural, regional and remote Australia.

The finer aspects of Professor McKenzie’s discussion at the summit are backed by fellow regional and rural Australia participant, small business entrepreneur Mary Nenke, who will be discussing a number of issues collected from within her network.

“I’ve put education as the most important topic because I believe excellence in education is the key to positive change, the key to the future; and we know that, statistically, regional Australia has fewer opportunities educationally,” Ms Nenke said.

Other ideas and changes both participants will be bringing to the 2020 Summit table include better housing in regional Australia and improved infrastructure and services, which they say will lead to more people staying in the country.

Another area of particular interest to both women, and fellow delegate in the Australian economy forum, Susan Harwood, is women and leadership.

Dr Harwood, who is the director of Curtin’s Maureen Bickley Centre for Women in Leadership and Management, said she was initially interested in the 2020 Summit for its lack of female representatives.

“I was very interested initially when there were hardly any women. I’m very pleased to see that now there’s a 51 per cent representation [in the overall delegation], but that is still not in the peak group,” Dr Harwood said.

Two out of 10 members of the Independent Steering Committee are women, with actress Cate Blanchett facilitating the creative Australia forum and Dr Jackie Huggins chairing the indigenous Australia discussion.

Another important issue for some of the delegates concerns the constraints exacerbated by the state’s booming economy.

Woodside executive and State Training Council chairman Keith Spence said the country needed to establish strategic workforce development plans that could be integrated across the education sector to combat the skills shortage.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA executive director policy Deidre Willmott hopes to bring into focus the state’s labour shortages for both small and large businesses.

“CCI has calculated that WA needs an additional 400,000 workers over the next decade in order to sustain the recent rates of economic growth,” Ms Willmott said.

“On current trends we will have a shortfall of 150,000 unless we can increase our population, our skills training and workforce participation.”

Those views are also echoed by Challenger Tafe managing director Liz Harris, who joins Mr Spence in the productivity agenda forum.

Ms Harris believes Australia needs to develop a culture that values learning so people can work more effectively.

“I am not convinced that this commitment or culture exists broadly; we are good at just-in-time skills solutions, not being a learning society,” she said.


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