17/01/2020 - 12:45

Mimic success, not failure

17/01/2020 - 12:45


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OPINION: From its own experience, Business News can declare the state government’s Market Led Proposals policy is a let-down.

WA needs to do more to attract investment and trade, and to promote itself to international students. Photo: Stockphoto

OPINION: From its own experience, Business News can declare the state government’s Market Led Proposals policy is a let-down.

When Mark McGowan launched Invest and Trade Western Australia in November, I was buoyed that the state government finally had ambitions to reach out beyond our shores and attract investment to this state.

Coincidently, Business News had pitched a project to the state government that fitted this very spectrum – to create content that had parallels with what we already do, but targeted at publishers anywhere but in WA.

It is no secret that many publishers are hungry for content but have no means to pay for it. Our answer was to translate an idea we had seen in South Australia, called The Lead, and develop our own version here with independently generated content about great WA innovations and developments.

A further coincidence came at the Business News event when the premier launched the Invest and Trade WA initiative, highlighting South Australia as the example from which his government had borrowed the idea. Great, I reckon. If something works elsewhere then what’s wrong with picking it up and running with it?

I don’t think it was coincidence, though, that South Australia’s successful trade initiative came with a long-term commitment to funding The Lead, run by independent publisher Solstice Media. The Lead has had thousands of its stories published around the globe in countless newspapers and on websites and blogs, all telling amazing stories about business and science innovation in that state.

Last year, the federal government granted SA’s SmartSat space development CRC $55 million in funding, a catalyst to around $200 million in additional support as part of creating an Australian Space Agency in that state.

I am told Premier Steve Marshall openly credited The Lead for helping SA position itself as the nation’s leader in the space sector.

So, following success makes sense. Following failure doesn’t.

Unfortunately, the idea Business News brought to what seemed like the welcoming arms of the state government got caught in the vortex of poor process (also imported from elsewhere). 

This might sound like sour grapes but through this process of taking what we thought was a good – and, admittedly, commercially attractive – idea to the state, we became guinea pigs in a new system the government established in April to handle unsolicited opportunities thrust its way.

Perhaps this was aiming to avoid some of the issues that plagued previous Labor governments’ dealings with business that led to corruption problems.

“The Market-led Proposals Policy provides a single channel and a clear, consistent and transparent process,” the WA Government website says.

The problem is, it doesn’t work, and businesses like ours are paying the price. After a 90-day period, including one two-hour meeting, our good idea failed at the first hurdle. It didn’t qualify. No-one else had brought it to government, we had acquired some special IP to run it, yet somehow it wasn’t considered ‘exclusive’.

At a debriefing meeting with state government officials, we were told that national experience with this type of mechanism – from which WA had borrowed the idea – was that 95 per cent of applicants failed.

If that was the case, why adopt it here?

Having been given positive views about our idea and pointed towards the Market-led Proposals framework as the way to formally bring it to government, I doubt we would have bothered going through the expense of lodging a bid if we knew there was a 5 per cent chance of getting through.

I have it on good authority that the state government has started reviewing the policy it implemented barely six months earlier, realising it was failing. We are hearing from people in the know that there are plenty of others who have equally abject views on the process (from their own experience).

Of course a belated review doesn’t really help those who have already wasted time and money like we have.

My biggest issue is that the problem our proposal solved is a huge one for WA business.

The Committee for Perth’s Hashtag Perth project had identified a big problem for WA was getting the rest of the world to understand we do many things other than mine ore. In reality, we do so much more, but most people in Perth don’t know that, let alone the markets we want to reach for investment, trade, students and conference travel.

So how do they know to look at WA or find Invest and Trade WA?

All the tourism advertising in the world won’t help with that. You need to do something different to attract investor attention. Compared to advertising, our solution was cheap – it leveraged the needs of publishers to provide immense value in niche areas that broad-spectrum ads, by default, can’t serve.

As they say, if a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?


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