Home' Commercial : Commercial 2014 Contents 72 SCOOP Commercial Building & Design
education and business
JOHN POYNTON – CHAIRMAN AND CO-FOUNDER OF AZURE CAPITAL
Our engagement with Asia is inevitable, which is going to help us. We are going to have an increasingly Asian population and
it will happen with our acquiescence and support, or it will happen anyway. I’d like to think we’ll become a real international city.
There’s been a surge of more cosmopolitan, international people into the city in the last 10 years. Because of our climate and
our lifestyle, we’ll be a place that attracts people – people who otherwise might want to live somewhere else, but because it’s so
compelling here, they come here. But if it’s gridlocked and not much fun, they’re not going to come. It’s incumbent on government
to sell some of their assets and reinvest in the sorts of things that avoid the pessimistic scenario, such as transport infrastructure.
In terms of education, we’ve got to be careful we
don’t become complacent. China in particular, and
Asia generally, are building significant capacity
in education themselves. At an elite level, they are
hooking up with the likes of Harvard and Stanford
and places like that, so they’ve got really good
brand connection. We can’t assume people are
going to keep coming down here to be educated
when other options exist that may be cheaper,
or as good as or better, in their own region.
The cost issue is such an elephant in the room now
because of WorkChoices. It seems there’s a few of
those sorts of issues that are impossible to debate
rationally. The hysteria builds and anyone who
might have a desire to fix it backs off. The idea of
bringing in guest workers seems a normal and
rational thing to do. Even in an environment where
you can demonstrate you can’t get the volume or
the skills, there’s still a hysterical response.
You think about exporting grain and protein to
Asia. We’ve got productive land, plenty of places in
the north where it rains and you can run cattle and
finish them down here, but try and run a station
or a farm at current wage rates. Try and run an
abattoir at the current wage rates. You can’t do
it. There is this enormous opportunity for another
industry that’s not being fulfilled and yet there’s
huge demand at the other end. The fact that there’s
not a rational, non-hysterical debate about it is
what intrigues me because historically you can see
the benefits, whether it’s directly by labour costs
or through efficiencies like tariff reductions.
It seems there’s a huge amount of capital in the
market at the moment for quality infrastructure
assets – admittedly ones that are built and running.
If governments have to actually build things first,
run them for a while and then sell them, that’s
fine but there’s been huge underinvestment in
infrastructure, and governments need to do more.
In that sense, to me it was a retrograde step to say
we’re going to have a modest asset sales program
in WA, and while we’ve got a problem with our
debt and our rating, we’re going to stop investing in
things like light rail. It doesn’t make any sense.
There’s an easy $20 billion worth of assets that
could be sold by the State Government in the next
three or four years. You could then easily fund
all the existing capital expenditure, such as Fiona
Stanley and the stadium and a few other things.
You could then get rid of the debt problem, get the
AAA rating back and build light rail, and still be
under-geared. Sell assets that it doesn’t make any
sense to own anymore, and sponsor assets that it
does make sense to seed, in the sense that no one
else is going to do them until they’re viable, and
then flog them when you can.
Micro economic reform is required but there isn’t
a great appetite for it. Planning, the Department of
Environment and Conservation and the councils are
great perpetrators of these delays. It’s extraordinary
what delays and duplication can cost. Yet it could be
fixed and it would make a big difference.
Engagement with Asia will
happen with our support,
or it will happen anyway.
Links Archive Commercial 2015 Commercial Building and Design 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page