Western Sydney Technological Development

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SpeakersYeadon Mr Kim; Merton Mr Wayne; Anderson Mr James
BusinessMatter of Public Importance

Page: 8063
    Matter of Public Importance

    Mr YEADON (Granville—Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Energy, Minister for Forestry, and Minister for Western Sydney) [7.32 p.m.]: A technological revolution of historic proportions has hit New South Wales and this nation. For the first time in history information can be shared around the world and around individual communities literally at the speed of light. Technology is restructuring our industries and economies. It is reshaping some jobs and creating many more. In New South Wales this Government is helping the State to be the technological leader and building our information technology, telecommunications, biotechnology and multimedia advantages. This will help ensure that this State has strong, sustainable economic growth and jobs growth in the post-Olympics period.

    But what most honourable members may not know is the vital contribution that western Sydney is making to the renewal of Australian industry, both as a creator and as an exploiter of new technology. The importance of western Sydney to Australia's technological revolution is a matter of public importance. It is time to recognise that western Sydney has a dynamic, globally competitive regional economy, and has many similarities to other renowned regions, such as Ireland, Bologna in Italy and even the Silicon Valley in America. It is vital for this State and for the country as a whole that governments of all persuasions, businesses and communities work together to reinforce the technological capacity of western Sydney. By doing so, we create many more jobs and investment in western Sydney, and help increase the diversity and vitality of the economy of this State as a whole.

    Australia is linked electronically to the world by highly sophisticated telecommunications infrastructure. Two domestic and four international fibre-optic cables link Australia to America, Europe and Asia. In the near future our electronic links to the world will increase yet again. The Southern Cross fibre-optic cable, which is scheduled to be commissioned by the end of this year, will boost additional voice and data links to America. Other high bandwidth cables, such as the Australia Japan cable, are planned for completion in 2001. Internet service providers based in New South Wales carry the greatest proportion of Internet traffic, and New South Wales is the national leader in the Australian Internet industry. This electronic infrastructure gives our companies even more opportunities to communicate with, and export to, the world.

    The information technology and telecommunications industry in Australia generates $33 billion per year in turnover and employs some 100,000 people. The lion's share of this industry is in New South Wales. Some 70 per cent of Australia's top 250 information technology and telecommunications companies are based in New South Wales. Leading international information technology and telecommunication companies, such as Cisco Systems, Intel, 3Com, Compaq, IBM, Yahoo! and British Telecom, have their Asia-Pacific regional headquarters here in Sydney. Oracle Corporation, Microsoft, Dell Computers and America Online have set up their Australian headquarters here. We also have 44 per cent of all regional call centres in the Asia-Pacific region based in New South Wales. These global companies are creating new jobs for Australians, stimulating new skills and knowledge in our work force, and diffusing world-class technologies throughout our economy.

    What is less well known is the national significance of western Sydney as the centre for Australian-based use of advanced technology. Unlike the North Sydney to North Ryde corridor, with its concentration of multinational information technology firms, the largest cluster of Australian information technology businesses and businesses using information technology is in western Sydney. For example, in 1997 western Sydney firms in information technology, telecommunications, multimedia, publishing, film and broadcasting sectors generated more than $2.5 billion. These industries in western Sydney are predicted to generate $4 billion by 2006. Within 15 years an estimated 15,000 new jobs will be created in western Sydney in the information technology and telecommunications sector alone. The technology sector in western Sydney is part of the 72,000 businesses that are based in the region which generate $54 billion in turnover each year. This means that western Sydney is the third largest regional economy in Australia after the rest of Sydney and Melbourne.

    The national significance of western Sydney to the Australian economy is becoming more widely known. Last year I had the pleasure of opening Australia's first Information Technology Industry conference, which was held at Parramatta. The conference was attended by information technology and industry leaders from across the country, including Bob Hayward, Vice President of the Gartner Group, which is one of the most respected independent information technology companies in the world. Mr Hayward pointed out that the importance of information technology to the growth of western Sydney has not been recognised because most western Sydney information technology firms do not identify as information technology firms but see themselves as firms in manufacturing, education, agribusiness or other industry sectors. However, many of western Sydney's 72,000 businesses, which generate more than $2.2 billion per annum in exports, are technology sophisticated.

    That is an important point. The terminology that is often used in today's society creates a dichotomy between the old economy and the new economy. One of the central points of this so-called information technology revolution is the fact that old industries or what are perceived to be old economy industries, such as manufacturing and the like, are embedding technology in their processes. That is the one aspect of the revolution that is occurring. It involves new ways of doing old business. It is a misnomer to draw a distinction between the old economy and the new economy in the stark way that it is often done in general discussion and in the media.

    The huge success of western Sydney has also been shown in the Western Sydney Industry Awards. These awards were developed by the Government's Office of Western Sydney in partnership with industry, and identify excellence and innovation in firms in western Sydney. The awards are strategic because they highlight the factors that businesses need to succeed against global competition, including innovation, use of technology and improving the skills of the work force. This year 105 innovative companies, most of them world class and sophisticated users of technology, were finalists in the Western Sydney Industry Awards.

    For example, Zone Digital Video Systems at Castle Hill has developed digital video surveillance systems for use in the security industry. In January 2000 the American Security Industry Association selected Zone Digital Video Systems as the "security industry's finest". This year's Western Sydney Industry Awards, which I launched on Friday, will continue to highlight the contribution that the innovative, globally competitive companies in western Sydney are making to innovation, jobs and investment. I should add in passing that the Western Sydney Industry Awards are a highly successful partnership between the State Government, businesses, local government, TAFE and the University of Western Sydney.

    The Government and the Office of Western Sydney are seeking to create a new model of doing business in western Sydney through collaboration and partnership. That approach to regional development in western Sydney is based on previous models, perhaps the most well-known and well regarded being Silicon Valley.

    The plan is going superbly in western Sydney. I cannot wax lyrically enough about the support we have had from business and the community. Clearly, they have been crying out for this sort of initiative. They are not dictated to by government or by the Office of Western Sydney. They are provided with forums in which they can come together and collaborate with each other. They network and find out what other people and businesses can provide. These new economy approaches provide major value-adding opportunities in a long value-adding chain. It is extraordinary to watch. The Western Sydney Industry Awards are a central part of the initiative. As well as an award ceremony held once a year, a range of networking lunches and other forums are conducted throughout the year. Hundreds of people attend those lunches and forums and the results are extraordinary and exciting.

    Clearly, this initiative will continue, together with a range of collaborative approaches that the Government is taking. Under the Partners for Change program the Office of Western Sydney collaborates with major businesses in western Sydney to give young long-term unemployed people pre-vocational training so that they can get into on-the-job training courses and eventually obtain employment. We have put many young long-term unemployed people into jobs and will continue to do so in the future. I urge all honourable members to take note of the very exciting things that are occurring in western Sydney.

    Mr MERTON (Baulkham Hills) [7.42 p.m.]: The Opposition supports this matter of public importance, which outlines the role played by western Sydney in relation to technological and economic development in New South Wales. It is my pleasure to be the Opposition spokesman for western Sydney, a vital place and one of the fastest growing areas in Australia. As the Minister correctly said, western Sydney has a population of 1.7 million people and 72,000 vibrant businesses, which generate $54 billion annually. It is one of the fastest growing regions in Australia in which one-tenth of the population of the nation has chosen to live. The average age of one-third of the population of western Sydney is under the age of 19, which presents a vibrant, dynamic and exciting opportunity for governments and for business.

    Western Sydney occupies an area of approximately 8,000 square kilometres and incorporates 14 local government entities. As the Minister said, some exciting business parks and technology concepts have developed in recent years. The whole area of western Sydney is growing, as well as the spread of business locations. There have also been changes as the technology revolution has hit the previously light to moderate industrial area. For many years the industrial estates housed traditional industries, such as motor repair shops, panel beating shops and electrical suppliers. Those important industries continue to operate, but one can see a change in the new areas. The buildings and the standard of industrial accommodation have improved. In many cases the basic factory unit, which was usually located on the best block, has been knocked down and a glass structure purpose built for a high technology industry has been erected in its place.

    I am proud to say that the Norbrik industrial estate is in my electorate of Baulkham Hills. The Minister would be aware of that estate, which houses some outstanding high-technology developments, such as Schneider and Tattersalls. I commend the Western Sydney Industry Awards and the Office of Western Sydney. I believe with assistance from government, with a nurturing hand, advice and expertise, plenty of people out there are prepared to have ago. All they need is a little encouragement and incentive. That should come from the arm of government. Our political opponents may not entirely accept this, although from the tone of the Minister's speech I believe that he probably does. The Liberal Party considers that the role of government is to try to help people up the ladder. If we can do that, not only do we help the people who run the business, we also make and create employment opportunities. That is what it is required in western Sydney.

    Government has an encompassing role to play—one of giving assistance and guidance and making things easier. The Opposition would very much like to see some avenues of red tape eliminated to make it easier for people to set up a business. We are proud of what is happening in western Sydney. I was born in Wentworthville and have lived all my life in western Sydney, having attended South Granville Public School and later Fairfield High School and having run a business in Church Street, Parramatta. I understand western Sydney. . As the Minister eloquently said, it is exciting to see the technological revolution that has hit western Sydney. The revolution is no longer confined to areas such as North Ryde. Technology is creating outstanding opportunities for young people in western Sydney to get involved in a dynamic industry and to get involved in a career opportunity that will lead to security of employment.

    We must never overlook the fact that although technology plays an important part, $54 billion is generated annually by income from businesses that are not involved in technology. Many hardworking Australian people—motor mechanics, bricklayers, carpenters and people in the manufacturing sector—work hard for themselves and their families. By and large, the people of western Sydney are genuine, hardworking people. All they want is a fair go for themselves and their families. They stick together. They are the kind of people who will assist a person whose car is broken down at the side of the road. . Tradition has resulted in a close-knit community.

    In years gone by there has been a dividing line between western Sydney and other parts of Sydney. I do not like to accept that as the situation, but I often tell a story about growing up in Merrylands. We did not have sealed roads or concrete footpaths, and the street I lived in was separated by an open stormwater channel. My aunty lived across the other side of town in a place called Willoughby. We used to go and visit her in our 1936 Hudson car. Willoughby had sealed roads and there were no outside loos or dunnies there—they had the sewerage on! The situation is changing and governments of all persuasions now realise that western Sydney must be recognised for what it is: the fastest growing area of Sydney populated by good, hardworking, honest, basic Australians who care for their families and want to work. I do not mean to be critical but, as a local member and the shadow spokesman for western Sydney, I know there are obviously problems in a fast-growing area. My electorate is in the north-west sector. Within five to 10 years time the north-west sector will be a suburb the size of Canberra, with 250,000 people and 80,000 homes sites.

    I note the presence in the Chamber of the honourable member for Bathurst. He, of course, would travel along the Windsor Road. I do not wish to inflict upon the House my concerns about Windsor Road, but it is a problem. I note that the Government has taken steps to do something about it. However, in 10 years time the stretch of road to Parramatta must consist of two lanes for more than one-third of the distance. Anyonewith commonsense would not dispute that. Windsor Road leads to areas that house people who have benefited from the technology race, who have taken advantage of opportunities and had the career promotions. One knows the wages that young people who have some kind of technological skills can earn these days. They are moving out to areas such as Rouse Hill, and they need transport. I know that the Government intends to put in a rail line, but the year 2010 cannot come quickly enough for the people of western Sydney, who desperately need transport.

    The Opposition supports the importance of western Sydney to the technological and economic development of New South Wales. However, we believe that there is a lot to be done. We believe that the Government should do something about solving the problems associated with the dragsters. We believe that the people in the drag racing community should be provided with a facility that is acceptable to them and one that they can utilise with the $30 million or $40 million worth of machinery that they have sitting idle. In fact, it would generate approximately 1,000 extra jobs. Drag-racing involves highly skilled technology, but not everyone can be involved with technology; many people are involved in the motor and other trades. Let us look at some of the problems that exist; they will not go away. The problems with Windsor Road will not go away, nor will the lack of transport or the M4 toll. The Premier himself said it was unfair to have a toll on the M4.

    Mr Yeadon: Who put it on there?

    Mr MERTON: We never promised to take it off. You promised to take it off. The Minister and I have been very friendly so far in this debate, and I can assure the House we will end the debate on a friendly note. Let us have a look at some of the basics so that the people of western Sydney can prosper. As Opposition spokesman on western Sydney, I indicate the Opposition's support for this matter of public importance.

    Mr ANDERSON (Londonderry) [7.52 p.m.]: I support this matter of public importance relating to western Sydney. I intended to say that I endorse the comments of my colleagues. However, I simply say that I endorse some of the comments of my colleague the honourable member for Baulkham Hills. I am delighted to speak to this very important matter, and in doing so wish to congratulate the Minister for Western Sydney. As the first Minister for Western Sydney, he is doing an outstanding job, and we, the people of western Sydney, benefit from it. I do not believe the Premier could have picked a better person when he appointed his Minister for Western Sydney. The Minister has shown a great deal of leadership in bringing together all the organisations that make up western Sydney, which is, as other speakers have said so eloquently, one of the powerhouses of Australian industry and the Australian economy.

    As other members have said, 10 per cent of Australia's manufacturing value comes from western Sydney. For many years I worked in the manufacturing industry because my original trade was as a sheetmetal worker, and I know the importance of manufacturing industries to the western region. I believe that that is where our future lies—not just in the provision of services, which is very important, but also in creating jobs in the manufacturing industry that will give fulfilment to people who want to work, and in producing products that we can sell in other places—which will also enhance the value of the work carried out by the people of western Sydney.

    I had intended to highlight a number of matters, however time precludes me from doing so. I will therefore briefly highlight a number of important issues. I congratulate the Carr Government on its initiatives and the amount of money that it is investing in western Sydney. This financial year, for example, the New South Wales Government will spend approximately $1.44 billion in operating costs for primary and secondary schools in western Sydney. I believe that the cradle of our future development lies in educating our young people, giving them the tools to go out and compete for jobs and giving them the opportunity to get the jobs. I believe that that will have a beneficial effect for all of us, because it will also lift their self-esteem and make our young people really appreciate that they are as good as anyone else in this nation. If we simply give them the chance to do it, they will prove just how good they really are. In addition, this year's budget has allocated around $252 million in operating costs for TAFE institutes in western Sydney. As a result of our efforts, western Sydney is a youthful, multicultural region that thrives on education and training.

    Businesses have certainly expressed confidence in what the Government is doing and the services that are being provided by educational institutions. The Western Sydney Institute of TAFE and the South West Sydney Institute have strong links with industry and are working to ensure that students get the best of learning through the theory and learning-on-the-job opportunities. TAFE has customised courses which link in with the needs of major firms in western Sydney—major employers such as Rondo Building Products, which is in my electorate of Londonderry, and the National Australia Bank. In Parramatta, the Western Sydney Institute of TAFE is delivering level III training in communications with the Parramatta head office. It is clear that big business is getting involved. Big business is certainly providing the opportunity for our young people to get involved in the sort of training that will benefit those businesses, as well as the people who live in our region. I commend the Minister for the great work that is being done, and I implore him to continue that work because the people of western Sydney will benefit from it.

    Mr YEADON (Granville—Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Energy, Minister for Forestry, and Minister for Western Sydney) [7.57 p.m.], in reply: This Government was the first to recognise the fundamental importance of western Sydney to the State's economy, the environment and the community. Indeed, one of the key issues we have focused on in western Sydney is the whole new approach to business that is reflected in what is called the triple bottom line—that is, a company's fiscal performance, its community performance and its environmental performance.

    I believe that over the next decade or so everyone will come to recognise the importance of that triple bottom line. It means that companies that are not performing well financially and are not paying attention to their role in the community and their role as a corporate entity will suffer in the market. Indeed, in like fashion, if companies are blind to the environment and are not conscious of their impact on the environment in relation to their activities, they will again suffer in the market as customers turn away from them. In recent times there have been some telling international examples of companies suffering dramatically on their community and environmental bottom lines. Nike shoewear is probably one of the most classic examples in the last couple of years.

    The Government very much recognised the fundamental importance of western Sydney to the State's economy; indeed it was the underpinning factor in the Government establishing the portfolio of Minister for Western Sydney. I was greatly honoured to be made the inaugural Minister for Western Sydney, a portfolio that has widely established the very successful Office of Western Sydney.

    The Government was totally unlike the Opposition which, at first, refused to appoint a shadow Minister for Western Sydney. I note that in two years the Opposition has had three shadow Ministers for Western Sydney. The New South Wales Government realised that the good of the State and, indeed, the nation depended on western Sydney building on its strong industry and skills base. As previous speakers pointed out, that manufacturing base is absolutely vital, but technology is a fundamental part of it as technology becomes embedded in those companies and becomes the natural way in which they operate. A terrific example is Advanced Metal products in western Sydney, which is a traditional sheet metal manufacturing firm that has totally digitised its whole approach to undertaking its traditional manufacturing job.

    Advanced Metal products receives all of its orders digitally over the Internet from international customers. It is then able to feed those specifications from client orders on to the shop floor into sophisticated laser-cutting equipment, which is computer and digitally controlled. It then produces the product and the product is shipped to the client. The transportation of the product can be monitored all the way to its destination by using sophisticated Internet technology. That is a classic example of how the old and new dichotomy does not apply: what is regarded as old economy companies need to move up and embed this new technology in their processes. That is exactly what is occurring in western Sydney, and that is why the regional economy of western Sydney is and will be increasingly so important to the State and economy of the nation. To remain globally competitive and to keep up with rapid population growth in western Sydney, the region is continuing to modernise. It is beautiful to see.

    The Government's Office of Western Sydney is playing a strategic role in western Sydney by providing leadership and acting as a catalyst for change, and a forum and a touchstone for networking and collaborating. The office organised Australia's first Information Technology and Industry conference, which was held in Parramatta last year. This year the Office of Western Sydney held another national first at Parramatta: a forum at which western Sydney councils considered how they could become fundamental and sophisticated users of information technology. Other initiatives in the region, such as the industry awards that I mentioned, are giving the information technology, biotechnology and other technology businesses in the State a national and international profile. The very successful Western Sydney Industry Awards are supporting individual firms and helping to position the region as the technological powerhouse of Australia.

    Discussion concluded.