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Canberra is doomed

By 29 July 2014 46

Have the changes brought about by a Federal Liberal Government and an increasingly broke and desperate Labor/Green Alliance, started to sink home to Canberrans yet?

I can remember so many years ago when the same sort of looney left Labor and Green Alliance took over in Tasmania, promising a change of culture (to the left) and increased economic security in the future from a ‘new way’ and renewavble energy and tourism.

And what did Tasmania become after 12 years of that rubbish? The economic basketcase of Australia that was almost destroyed in the GFC and an economy that will take another 10 years to recover – if they ever do.

The certainty of employment that the APS (and ACT PS) has provided to Canberra, will probably remain in the future, but it will be significantly reduced in its ability to shield Canberra anymore, like in did with the GFC.  The future of this town is very much at a nexus – it could go either way over the next 5-10 years.  To believe things will remain the same and that just like after Howard in 1996, this town will recover, is at best otpimistic and more realistically is delusional.

What Canberra needs is exactly what Tasmania failed to do, and that is to foster economic development through business ventures, and not to be totally biased against the benefits of a business sector, and to believe that Government money is a never ending magic pudding.

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46 Responses to Canberra is doomed
#1
davo1019:45 am, 29 Jul 14

We’re all doomed; it’s known as the second law of thermodynamics.

As to the more immediate issue in Canberra, I’m not sure that there really is anything to be done about it. Canberra is after all just Australia’s largest company town and if the company is planning to cut production then that’s that.

You need to remember that there is no natural reason why Canberra should be located where it is. It has no hinterland to support, no port, no access to natural resources. If it hadn’t been selected as the site for the seat of Government then it would now be just an interesting old church at a crossroad on the Queanbeyan-Yass road. This, in combination with the high salaries of the company workers, means that there is really not that much business opportunity in Canberra beyond servicing the needs of the company workers and the national institutions based here or providing a home for organisations that need to be close to the seat of government.

#2
dungfungus10:26 am, 29 Jul 14

The nexus between the ACT Labor Minority government and the University of Canberra will save us.
Millions of dollars is being invested in “profile raising” through sponsorship of just about every sporting cause in the Territory.
It’s just like the good old days of ActewAGL throwing our money at everything.
Sadly, the flagship UC sponsorship failed to bring home the bacon on Saturday night but I am sure lots of students will be signing up for the Diploma in Profile Raising nevertheless.
Regarding government investment in business ventures, this can happen overnight at no cost to the taxpayer. All that needs to happen is for the ACT Government to bury the Canberra cringe and start buying from businesses that are domiciled in Canberra.

#3
VYBerlinaV8_is_back10:37 am, 29 Jul 14

Doomed, yeah right. There are lots of jobs at the moment in the IT business in Canberra, it’s rarely this busy, in fact. There are some very big government projects coming up over the next couple of years (hundreds of millions each) that private companies are already recruiting for as well.

#4
Holden Caulfield11:11 am, 29 Jul 14

Right now, Canberra is totally f#*ked. Businesses across a wide variety sectors seem to be struggling. Let’s hope the town comes back to life real soon.

#5
Masquara11:46 am, 29 Jul 14

But you must be wrong! The new juice startup, “The Fix”, is certain that Canberrans will part with sixty bucks in their hardearned for a daily juice routine at nine bucks a 470ml bottle (not even organic)! They are confident of Canberra’s economic future!

#6
pierce12:00 pm, 29 Jul 14

I don’t suppose anyone has any facts to back up these whiny partisan claims do they?

No? Just feelpinions.

#7
HiddenDragon12:45 pm, 29 Jul 14

Doomed might be putting it a little strongly, but to use Ross Garnaut’s language, the salad days are over (and the sound of barking can be heard). All we need to do is stop spending money we haven’t got, trying to be something we aren’t, and things won’t be too bad. The analogy with Tasmania certainly has some relevance.

#8
Mark of Sydney1:40 pm, 29 Jul 14

Well I bought my first Canberra property on the weekend. Was going to wait for a few more months to see if prices would fall significantly after the election but there is no sign of that and the property is centrally located and ideal from an investment or living perspective.

The OP says ‘To believe things will remain the same and that just like after Howard in 1996, this town will recover, is at best otpimistic and more realistically is delusional.’ Why, what evidence do you have?

I’m no great fan of the current Labor-Green style of territory government but to suggest it’s ‘broke and desperate’ is just silly. Had an acquaintance from Europe here to stay for the past few weeks and she was incredulous when talking about how the people she was working with in Canberra were complaining about how tough things are at the moment. If you think things are bad here, ask someone who knows what it’s like in a major European city, particularly in a public-sector dependent field.

Davo101 says ‘there is no natural reason why Canberra should be located where it is. It has no hinterland to support, no port, no access to natural resources.’ But you can say that about many prosperous cities the world over. Having a port, an agricultural hinterland or access to resources was once a pre-condition for a powerful urban economy. Now it’s about the availability of skills or cheap labour. Canberra has the first if not the second, but it does need to become more entrepreneurial.

The answer probably isn’t in the kind of obsessively over-reaching — there’s not a human problem that can’t be fixed by rolling out a new law or program — approach to government that seems to characterise the current territory government, but nor is it in the populous whining and reactionary response of so many people who post on this site, who seem to think that unless something is produced on an assembly line or in a paddock it’s of no economic or social value.

#9
davo1012:01 pm, 29 Jul 14

Mark of Sydney said :

But you can say that about many prosperous cities the world over.

Care to name one?

Mark of Sydney said :

Now it’s about the availability of skills or cheap labour.

Exactly, neither of which Canberra has. If you were setting up a new business in Australia (which didn’t need direct access to Canberra) why would you set up here? Sure, there is room for a number of niche industries in the ACT but they are not going to be significant.

HiddenDragon said :

Doomed might be putting it a little strongly, but to use Ross Garnaut’s language, the salad days are over (and the sound of barking can be heard). All we need to do is stop spending money we haven’t got, trying to be something we aren’t, and things won’t be too bad.

+1
Yes, this. I don’t understand what the need is to keep growing. We just need to learn to live within our current situation. The history of States chasing “economic development” is littered with failed projects and wasted money.

#10
VYBerlinaV8_is_back2:23 pm, 29 Jul 14

davo101 said :

The history of States chasing “economic development” is littered with failed projects and wasted money.

Light rail being a good example.

#11
chewy142:40 pm, 29 Jul 14

davo101 said :

We’re all doomed; it’s known as the second law of thermodynamics.

As to the more immediate issue in Canberra, I’m not sure that there really is anything to be done about it. Canberra is after all just Australia’s largest company town and if the company is planning to cut production then that’s that.

You need to remember that there is no natural reason why Canberra should be located where it is. It has no hinterland to support, no port, no access to natural resources. If it hadn’t been selected as the site for the seat of Government then it would now be just an interesting old church at a crossroad on the Queanbeyan-Yass road. This, in combination with the high salaries of the company workers, means that there is really not that much business opportunity in Canberra beyond servicing the needs of the company workers and the national institutions based here or providing a home for organisations that need to be close to the seat of government.

I think you’re significantly underestimating the business opportunities for companies to be close to the seat of government. Sure we won’t be challenging Sydney or Melbourne but there is plenty of scope for growth. Obviously if the proposed federal cuts go through, we are in for a lean couple of years but I don’t buy into this doom and gloom stuff. We’ve been there before, we’ll be there again, the wheel turns.

#12
arescarti422:42 pm, 29 Jul 14

The bottom line is that as of June, unemployment in the ACT is still the lowest of any state or territory, and around half the national average.

From where I sit, it’s Australia more broadly that looks stuffed.

#13
davo1012:52 pm, 29 Jul 14

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

davo101 said :

The history of States chasing “economic development” is littered with failed projects and wasted money.

Light rail being a good example.

You might enjoy Utopia, tag line “Nation Building – One white elephant at a time”

#14
Mark of Sydney2:52 pm, 29 Jul 14

davo101 said :

Mark of Sydney said :

But you can say that about many prosperous cities the world over.

Care to name one?
Well, okay every medium to large city I can think of started out with one of those attributes, but their contemporary prosperity isn’t necessarily linked to any of them. Close to home, Sydney has a port but its economic significance is now probably of lesser importance than its airport, and its agricultural hinterland is relatively poor and constrained. Rome has no access to resources, no operating seaport and while its hinterland is historically important, that’s no longer the case. Ottawa is probably a better model for Canberra with 1800 companies employing approximately 80,000 people according to Wikipedia.

Mark of Sydney said :

Now it’s about the availability of skills or cheap labour.

Exactly, neither of which Canberra has. If you were setting up a new business in Australia (which didn’t need direct access to Canberra) why would you set up here? Sure, there is room for a number of niche industries in the ACT but they are not going to be significant.
You obviously don’t in the IT&T or scientific sectors.

HiddenDragon said :

Doomed might be putting it a little strongly, but to use Ross Garnaut’s language, the salad days are over (and the sound of barking can be heard). All we need to do is stop spending money we haven’t got, trying to be something we aren’t, and things won’t be too bad.

+1
Yes, this. I don’t understand what the need is to keep growing. We just need to learn to live within our current situation. The history of States chasing “economic development” is littered with failed projects and wasted money.

#15
rommeldog566:08 pm, 29 Jul 14

It is not the Feds that will “doom” Canberra but rather the doom will come from this ACT Labor/Greens Government that seems unable or incapable of reasonably living within its means. The up to tripling of Annual Rates (if anyone believes that will be the max pa increase for the next 20 years, then they are delusional !), increases in utility and other ACT Gov’t charges charges,repaying infrastructure debt including the Light Rail, will\ price labour based in the ACT too expensive to employ because of the cost of living in the ACT. Additionally, why would business want to set up in the ACT given that cost of living and Government and utility charges. If anything “dooms” Canberra, it will be the inept ACT Govt decisions (past and present), not so much the Feds.

#16
bigfeet6:26 pm, 29 Jul 14

Apparantly its not just Canberra that is doomed

#17
HiddenDragon8:42 pm, 29 Jul 14

chewy14 said :

davo101 said :

We’re all doomed; it’s known as the second law of thermodynamics.

As to the more immediate issue in Canberra, I’m not sure that there really is anything to be done about it. Canberra is after all just Australia’s largest company town and if the company is planning to cut production then that’s that.

You need to remember that there is no natural reason why Canberra should be located where it is. It has no hinterland to support, no port, no access to natural resources. If it hadn’t been selected as the site for the seat of Government then it would now be just an interesting old church at a crossroad on the Queanbeyan-Yass road. This, in combination with the high salaries of the company workers, means that there is really not that much business opportunity in Canberra beyond servicing the needs of the company workers and the national institutions based here or providing a home for organisations that need to be close to the seat of government.

I think you’re significantly underestimating the business opportunities for companies to be close to the seat of government. Sure we won’t be challenging Sydney or Melbourne but there is plenty of scope for growth. Obviously if the proposed federal cuts go through, we are in for a lean couple of years but I don’t buy into this doom and gloom stuff. We’ve been there before, we’ll be there again, the wheel turns.

Whether it’s for lobbying on broader policy questions, or for chasing contracts, I imagine most businesses and business groups have probably already made their choices about a Canberra presence, and in the case of lobbying, some are so powerful that the politicians tend to go to them in Sydney, Melbourne, New York etc……

I have trouble seeing an economic case for anything here that’s not at least partially reliant on government or university spending – that’s ultimately not a criticism or a complaint, just a good reason for thinking that big, ambitious ACT Government spending based on dreams and visions is foolish.

Sadly, the most likely opportunity for growth (absent another free-spending federal government) is probably in further provision of subsidised (by ACT taxpayers) services to the residents of surrounding NSW – the “greater Canberra” vision – nice for the beneficiaries, including bureacratic empire-builders, and appealing to the fans of regional government who think the States are so last century, but not so good for those who are paying for it.

#18
26048:51 pm, 29 Jul 14

davo101 said :

Yes, this. I don’t understand what the need is to keep growing. We just need to learn to live within our current situation. The history of States chasing “economic development” is littered with failed projects and wasted money.

The idea that government can “buy” economic growth always makes me laugh. Economic growth comes when the government gets the hell out of the way and stops trying to position itself as a player in the economy.

The basketball analogy is appropriate. The only appropriate role for government is being a strong and consistent referee, not a participant in the game itself.

#19
Tetranitrate9:25 pm, 29 Jul 14

arescarti42 said :

The bottom line is that as of June, unemployment in the ACT is still the lowest of any state or territory, and around half the national average.

From where I sit, it’s Australia more broadly that looks stuffed.

Canberra’s unemployment rate is barely meaningful, it’s work that brings so many people to Canberra and if that disappears and there’s any opportunity elsewhere, they tend to leave if they’re able.

I just checked back on here for fun – I’m gone, this post brought to you from NSW.
I can think of several mates from uni who’re back in Sydney after being unable to get jobs when theirs disappeared. Abbott basically dropped every non-ongoing in the APS after all and most people I know of who lost full time jobs have just moved – albeit all young without kids.

Canberra right now is waaaay worse than Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth, for most people at least – maybe IT is different as some in this thread have said, but generally it’s pretty bad.

#20
Hosinator10:16 pm, 29 Jul 14

Canberra should focus on its strengths, a well educated population and our location.

Mark makes a good point that when you no longer have cheap labour you need to turn to entrepreneurialism.

Mark of Sydney said :

Now it’s about the availability of skills or cheap labour. Canberra has the first if not the second, but it does need to become more entrepreneurial.

Small to micro manufacturing. We are well placed between Sydney and Melbourne to produce niche products or mass market ones through the use of technology, small scale manufacturing equipment, lasers, 3D printing etc.
A friend of mine has recently set up a micro manufacturing business in Sydney based on a recent trip to Europe. He can’t fill orders fast enough, and is now considering moving into manufacturing one of the major secondary components himself, just so that he can keep up with demand.

Germany is a good example of an intelligent and entrepreneurial country where labour costs are high, so to get around this they use machines rather than people to produce goods. This has paved the way for companies from 3 to 80 running small scale, highly profitable businesses.

#21
rommeldog5611:31 pm, 29 Jul 14

Hosinator said :

Canberra should focus on its strengths, a well educated population and our location.

Mark makes a good point that when you no longer have cheap labour you need to turn to entrepreneurialism.

Mark of Sydney said :

Now it’s about the availability of skills or cheap labour. Canberra has the first if not the second, but it does need to become more entrepreneurial.

Small to micro manufacturing. We are well placed between Sydney and Melbourne to produce niche products or mass market ones through the use of technology, small scale manufacturing equipment, lasers, 3D printing etc.
A friend of mine has recently set up a micro manufacturing business in Sydney based on a recent trip to Europe. He can’t fill orders fast enough, and is now considering moving into manufacturing one of the major secondary components himself, just so that he can keep up with demand.

Germany is a good example of an intelligent and entrepreneurial country where labour costs are high, so to get around this they use machines rather than people to produce goods. This has paved the way for companies from 3 to 80 running small scale, highly profitable businesses.

Fair enough – makes sense and a good way for the broadening of the employment base and revenue raising base in the ACT.

But, why did the ACT Gov’t up to triple Commercial Annual Rates (along with residential annual rates) ? Surely, over time, that will limit the growth in business start ups in the ACT and so limit employment growth and broadening of the employment market ? Makes no sense to me.

#22
dungfungus8:44 am, 30 Jul 14

rommeldog56 said :

Hosinator said :

Canberra should focus on its strengths, a well educated population and our location.

Mark makes a good point that when you no longer have cheap labour you need to turn to entrepreneurialism.

Mark of Sydney said :

Now it’s about the availability of skills or cheap labour. Canberra has the first if not the second, but it does need to become more entrepreneurial.

Small to micro manufacturing. We are well placed between Sydney and Melbourne to produce niche products or mass market ones through the use of technology, small scale manufacturing equipment, lasers, 3D printing etc.
A friend of mine has recently set up a micro manufacturing business in Sydney based on a recent trip to Europe. He can’t fill orders fast enough, and is now considering moving into manufacturing one of the major secondary components himself, just so that he can keep up with demand.

Germany is a good example of an intelligent and entrepreneurial country where labour costs are high, so to get around this they use machines rather than people to produce goods. This has paved the way for companies from 3 to 80 running small scale, highly profitable businesses.

Fair enough – makes sense and a good way for the broadening of the employment base and revenue raising base in the ACT.

But, why did the ACT Gov’t up to triple Commercial Annual Rates (along with residential annual rates) ?

Surely, over time, that will limit the growth in business start ups in the ACT and so limit employment growth and broadening of the employment market ? Makes no sense to me.

The only businesses that will survive in the ACT are those who are providing essential local services.
Because of the “non-supportive/buy out of town” attitude of the ACT Government and other disincentives like the ones you have reffered to, it is extremely difficult to base a business in Canberra and compete nationally.
The geographical siting of Canberra (mentioned in an earlier post) and the difficulty in arriving in Canberra direct from overseas is also a negative and nothing can be done about this.
The MLAs from all sides of politics who are promoting a new convention centre should come to grips with the fact that like most other businesses, Canberra cannot compete with other cities in Australia that are already offering the same thing.
I can’t think of one MLA who has had any recent business experience so we are really doomed.

#23
pink little birdie2:38 pm, 30 Jul 14

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

Doomed, yeah right. There are lots of jobs at the moment in the IT business in Canberra, it’s rarely this busy, in fact. There are some very big government projects coming up over the next couple of years (hundreds of millions each) that private companies are already recruiting for as well.

Love to know a few of these companies partner needs a fulltime job in IT.

#24
davo1013:22 pm, 30 Jul 14

pink little birdie said :

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

Doomed, yeah right. There are lots of jobs at the moment in the IT business in Canberra, it’s rarely this busy, in fact. There are some very big government projects coming up over the next couple of years (hundreds of millions each) that private companies are already recruiting for as well.

Love to know a few of these companies partner needs a fulltime job in IT.

The software developer we just recruited told me the Canberra market for IT is so dead at the moment he was just about to move to Sydney to chase the jobs.

#25
dungfungus4:10 pm, 30 Jul 14

Even crime is affected. I don’t recall any murders for some time.
Soon the mafia will be laying off judges.

#26
Dondon7:13 pm, 30 Jul 14

davo101 said :

The software developer we just recruited told me the Canberra market for IT is so dead at the moment he was just about to move to Sydney to chase the jobs.

That’s amazing, since I am knocking back contracts at the moment. However I am not a Dev but a BA.

#27
dungfungus8:12 am, 31 Jul 14

Dondon said :

davo101 said :

The software developer we just recruited told me the Canberra market for IT is so dead at the moment he was just about to move to Sydney to chase the jobs.

That’s amazing, since I am knocking back contracts at the moment. However I am not a Dev but a BA.

For the benefit of luddites like me, what is a Dev and a BA?

#28
VYBerlinaV8_is_back8:26 am, 31 Jul 14

pink little birdie said :

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

Doomed, yeah right. There are lots of jobs at the moment in the IT business in Canberra, it’s rarely this busy, in fact. There are some very big government projects coming up over the next couple of years (hundreds of millions each) that private companies are already recruiting for as well.

Love to know a few of these companies partner needs a fulltime job in IT.

Lockheed Martin are out recruiting, and I know a number of smaller consultancy firms are looking for specialists. DEEWR just put on 70 dev contractors, and there are a couple of big IT projects that will start next year, both run out of Canberra that I’m aware of (hundreds of millions of $$ each). I’ve had calls from HP, and some of the 2nd tier integrators have been looking too. Specialists skills are where its at during a government downturn.

#29
justsomeaussie9:21 am, 31 Jul 14

dungfungus said :

Dondon said :

davo101 said :

The software developer we just recruited told me the Canberra market for IT is so dead at the moment he was just about to move to Sydney to chase the jobs.

That’s amazing, since I am knocking back contracts at the moment. However I am not a Dev but a BA.

For the benefit of luddites like me, what is a Dev and a BA?

A Business Analyst (BA) works with an organisation in determining the requirements of a system and acts as a liason. A Developer (Dev) takes those requirements and builds a system.

#30
davo1019:32 am, 31 Jul 14

dungfungus said :

For the benefit of luddites like me, what is a Dev and a BA?

With my tongue firmly in my cheek:

Dev: Software developer aka code monkey. Often found in the dev shed trying to prove the theory that with enough monkeys banging on keyboards every interesting program can be created. Powered almost exclusively by a combination of chubba chups and caffeine.

BA: Business Analyst aka the poor bunny. Has many roles: interpreter between dev speak and english, negotiator (eg: “no it can’t be finished by Wednesday” and “documentation in High Church Klingon is not acceptable”), peace-keeper. Looked down on by devs because they talk to non-devs and don’t spend all day working on the infinite monkey theorem. On the other hand get on well with others due to listening skills.

(Views entirely based on my own observations and prejudices your mileage may vary)

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