Victorian government

Victorian Parliament: 18 days to clarity or nine to calamity

The Victorian Parliament has 18 more sitting days before it is prorogued to end one of its most dysfunctional periods of government.

The Victorian Parliament’s last sitting day of October 16 will then see the government move into the mandatory six weeks purdah period before the designated election on November 29.

Three sitting weeks in June and August, or nine days, will be without the disruptive suspended independent member Geoff Shaw who has been principally the instigator of this dysfunctional period.

He holds the balance of power and is set to return on September 2 when parliament resumes for two weeks in September and the final week of sitting starting on October 14.

It will be during this period that the parliament will either be able to deal with many of the infrastructure bills and other regulatory and legislative matters that the Coalition government wants signed off, or Victoria faces another destabilising period.

The State does not need the latter.  Politicians and their Party administrations need to ensure that they are there for the advancement of the State, not for personal headlines or egos that appeal to minorities and don’t make a significant contribution to the development of the State, or go towards achieving a vision for the State.

This is also the period in which private sector needs to put its cases to all political parties to get them either incorporated into election policies or have them addressed before the purdah period.

In the health sector, the government is looking at outsourcing many of its functions to the private sector, in the agriculture sector they are looking to expand trade into Asia as well as enhance local processing, in the mining sector they want to highlight the significance to the State to the future opportunities, including a direction on future onshore exploration, in the manufacturing sector they are looking at every opportunity to attract new industries and grow jobs.

Transport, health, education, law and order are key functionary elements that the community expect, but they are not visionary. They are necessities that governments must ensure they plan and manage well.  This is not to say that the parties could not turn education or health (medical research and best practice) into a vision for the state with a bit of thought!

However, the window for the private sector to act is narrowing. They must act now!

All parties will be running functions to meet with Leaders, Ministers, Shadow Ministers and candidates.  All are important to you in the information process, but you must ensure that your case addresses the current policies of all the parties, or seek to influence these policies.

If you are going down this path and want expertise counsel, talk with us. Experience and knowledge are the basis of our practice.

Robert Masters

Food for Asia initiative

Australia is ideally placed to supply a hungry market emerging to our north

By Angus Nicholls

Read this article at

Australia is ideally placed to supply a hungry market emerging to our northIt is hard to believe that the consumer class emerging from Mumbai to Shanghai will reach 3 billion people by 2030. That is a lot of mouths to feed!

Australian governments across the board have identified primary producers as being exceptionally well placed to capitalise on this dynamic in the markets to our north. But what is the most valuable role that government can play from here on out?

It is our view the macro policy settings are either right, or heading in the right direction. For example, we have, or are working on:

  • Free Trade Agreements;
  • Targeted Grants Programs;
  • International Business Offices;
  • Export Strategies; and
  • Industry Roundtables

More specifically, Victoria has Food and Fibre Marketing Co-operatives Grants ($5M over 4 years), the Growing Food and Fibre Initiative ($124M over 8 years), an International Engagement Strategy ($50M over 4 years), and the Food to Asia Action Plan.

What we know on the ground is that it is extremely time consuming and expensive for Australian food and fibre producers to establish a sustainable foothold in new offshore markets. Especially where there are substantial cultural differences to be negotiated.

It is here that there is an apparent disconnect between policy settings and achieving aspirational goals for our farmers.

About the only Australian entities that can tough it out establishing new markets are the big players who are doing it anyway.

The challenge therefore is to focus on action that pulls our mid-tier and smaller primary producers into the exporting mix.

These are the businesses that are unlikely to have the resources, or the inclination to dig deep into their pockets and spend considerable time away from their enterprises to make the most of this evolving landscape and government encouragement. They also produce some of the nation’s most sought after products.

So what should be done?

We are of the view that there are plenty of activities that could be undertaken to make it worthwhile for our more boutique and niche suppliers to join this potential gold rush; such as national/state/sectoral branding, educational and cultural exchange, international office and secretarial support, and an event schedule that includes regional showcases of what Australian farmers have to offer the world.

A lot of the big picture work has already been carried out. It is now time to create an environment that sees our primary producers making the most of government policy and international infrastructure to truly incentivise them to take their products to the world.

We see taking this action as translating the bigger picture into stronger regional communities, more employment, and more profitable and innovative businesses. This makes both economic and political sense.

As Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest recently observed, we need a “Team Australia” and access to expertise can help deliver on these aspirations.

In a Victorian context we think that the simplest place to start would be to develop a “road map” for our primary producers that illuminates the path to market. Such a tool could, and should, be taken to our regions to highlight the opportunities and support that exist; as well as demystify the exporting process for those who are not doing it. By increasing the number and diversity of Victorian enterprises exporting, we will see these excellent policies deliver maximum benefit to the State.

Of course this is only the first play in what will be a long and beneficial game. There is plenty more work to be done with one of the major challenges on the government side being to translate theory into practice.


Angus Nicholls has a depth of experience in both the political and commercial worlds.

Over a 15-year career, Angus has been a senior government policy advisor at Federal level, a Councillor at Local government level and the General Manager of one of Australia’s largest seafood businesses.

He has developed a detailed understanding of primary produce, agricultural and industry policy at all levels of government and a deep understanding of local government planning, environmental and community amenity issues.

He is now a Senior Associate and the strategic communications firm Robert Masters & Associates.

Is Australian manufacturing dead?

Australian manufacturing: good news needs to be told and sold

British made motors take over Pall Mall - Top Gear

British made motors take over The Mall – Top Gear

By John Kananghinis

With the demise of the Australian car manufacturing industry there has been hysteria at the prospect that all Australian manufacturing is doomed.

This is clearly not true. What is true is that our high input and labour costs, combined with our relatively small and yet crowded market do not allow us to compete in the manufacture of large volume , highly competitive, relatively low margin consumer products, such as the average car or white goods.

However what we can do is design and manufacture high value vehicle components, niche vehicle modifications, and complete special purpose vehicles.

A little while ago Top Gear took on the myth that the British car industry is dead – this footage clearly shows that they debunked that idea.

Admittedly the Brits do have a slightly larger market and geographic proximity to many more consumers, not to mention Japanese, German and Indian money behind many of their mass or luxury market cars, but the point to be made is much the same.

All industries go through transitions from the original business model to the one that suits the times. If they don’t they simply die. No amount of tax-payer subsidy will change that.

Well, you could try, but eventually you would end up with the Soviet era shoe factory that measured success in production units only and not sales. Consequently they produced millions of perfectly reasonable shoes, only in one style and in one size and only for left feet. Job done!

Even the recent National Commission of Audit further confirmed that trying to pick winners is ultimately not a sustainable economic setting. Industry assistance should be the exception not the rule with a heavy bias to supporting R&D rather than bolstering unsustainable markets.

We do make a lot of technical auto type stuff in this country and very successfully. We just don’t tell anyone about it, or more to the point we spend all of our effort (certainly all of the news media effort) on looking backwards and maximising the doom factor. That makes for much more arresting headlines.

Almost all component manufacturers providing parts to Ford, GMH and Toyota have had a great deal of notice that local vehicle manufacture could well cease. Most will have been working for some time on diversification and often with considerable success. Of course others may have simply made the valid business decision to shut up shop when supply of components for local manufacture are no longer needed.

However let’s name just a very few of the automotive thingies we do make, and will most likely continue making well past the closure of the traditional car manufacturing plants.

Motorhomes: Brands such as Jayco, Trakka, Apollo, Avida, Suncamper, Cruisin’ and more, many exported to New Zealand and other markets.

Military vehicles: The Australian designed and built Bushmaster troop carrier is in operation with the military of the following nations, Australia, Great Britain, The Neatherlands, Japan, Indonesia and Jamaica.

Trucks: Kenworth, Volvo, IVECO and CAT all build a range of heavy trucks in Australia.

Earth moving and agricultural machinery: From diggers to harvesters to specialty machines for uniquely Australian conditions.

Buses: Most buses and tour couches in Australia are still body-built locally on imported chassis.

Emergency Vehicles: From ambulances to fire trucks to off-road rescue vehicles designed and built in Australia on locally produced and imported chassis, the vast majority of our emergency vehicles are largely Australian built.

Components, Design and R&D: Even the retreating mainline vehicle manufacturers have indicated that due to the specialist skills developed they will be keeping large sections of their local R&D and design capabilities. Automotive component makers of all sorts will continue to provide high value parts for many years to come.

Australia also makes trams, train carriages, truck trailers and even a whole lot of aircraft parts for the latest military and commercial planes built both in Europe and the USA.

The lesson is clear.

If you have a good news story to tell there is a willing audience and very often a willing partner in State and Federal Government to help you tell it. However, you need to take the lead in getting the story out there.

The bad news stories sell themselves. Good news needs skilful packaging and presenting. The resulting positive impact on companies and workers, let alone the broader community, is worth making the effort.

As part of a business supporting communication strategy, ICG has helped many companies make the most of their good news.  If you have good news there is no point hiding it, take the opportunity to add to a collective positivity index.


Minister Greg Hunt at Launch of Tyre Stewardship Australia

New roads to sustainability for old tyres

ICG recently delivered a Ministerial launch for the newly formed Tyre Stewardship Australia with Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt.

The program aims for the audited and accredited recycling of up to 48 million old tyres we discard in Australia every year. It will also help to develop new uses for the recovered raw material such as the mixing of crumbed rubber into high tech asphalt that offers quieter roads with greater grip and far better drainage.

That’s why the launch took place at Downer’s Asphalt plant in Somerton.

As the Minister says: “Industry cooperation that does the right thing by the industry and the right thing by the environment.”


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