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Speech to the Melbourne Press Club

17 June 2015

Can I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet – the people of the Kulin Nation – and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I want to thank you all for coming, and I want to keep this as short as I can, so I can move straight to your questions.

And I want to do something a bit different today. I want to talk about our great strengths, our great challenges – and how we will meet them.

It’s been over six months since the Victorian people gave Labor the greatest gift of all:

The honour of leading a Government and the task of changing a state.

A mandate to rebuild our economy, restore our health system, repair our schools – and bring TAFE back from the brink of collapse.

And we got to work on day one.

That’s what the last six months has been all about:

Getting on with it – and keeping our word.

We’re not a Government that will go missing in action.

We’re not a Government that will dodge a decision – big or small.

We’re not a Government that will snooze our way through a jobs crisis.

This is what Victoria learnt over the last four years:

Things move fast – and if you stand still, the world passes you by.

If you stand still, you go backwards – and you lose jobs.

The last four years did us a lot of damage. Four vacant years, which didn’t leave a legacy and barely left a shadow.

It will take a lot of hard work to get us back to where we were.

A lot of hard work – and a lot of hard truths.

We do need to be honest.

We do need to acknowledge that – after the past four years – Victoria is in danger of losing its crown as:

  • The number one state in the nation.
  • The number one economy in the country.
  • The sporting capital.
  • The creative state.
  • Home to major events – and the world’s most liveable city.

We’re in danger of losing our crown…and if that happens, we’re done.

I can tell you, New South Wales is roaring ahead. Queensland’s back on track.

South Australia is making some tough and truly transformative decisions about the future of its economy.

And even Canberra is on its way to becoming, and I quote my friend Andrew Barr, the ’Coolest Little Capital In the World’.

When it comes to Victoria – and our capital city – my fear is that, for too long, we clung to the memory of our greatness.

We put the awards and the accolades in the pool room, but we didn’t work hard enough – over the past four years – to give our state a new face and a new life.

Our state needs a shakeup.

It needs more energy, more excitement. The pillars of our economy need reform.

And being a Victorian has to mean something again.

Under the Liberals, we became the sleeping giant.

Our state slipped behind and it’s going to take hard work and big decisions to get us back in front.

And everyone has to shoulder that responsibility, starting with the Government.

Today, I want to outline some steps we’re taking to keep Victoria Number One.

Number one for jobs, number one for investment, number one for tourism, and number one for major events.

Before the election, I promised that the Labor Government would appoint a panel of experts – of senior business and industry leaders – to help create high-skill, high-wage jobs.

An independent panel – harnessing the expertise of the private sector to cut through the bureaucracy and get things done.

Our Budget gave the Premier’s Jobs and Investment Panel a $508 million bursary.

And today, I can announce that the Premier’s Jobs and Investment Panel will be chaired by Mr Harold Mitchell AC – the founder of Mitchell and Partners.

Harold is an icon of our creative state, who has chaired the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the National Gallery and the Melbourne International Festival of Arts.

He was the Vice-President of Tennis Australia, in charge of our most successful major event.

And his expertise extends to the health sector, as Chair of the Howard Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, and founder of the Harold Mitchell Foundation.

Harold’s is one of the most authoritative voices on the growth of any company, any organisation, any state – and I’ll be proud to take his advice.

On the Panel, he’ll be joined by representatives of the Australian Industry Group, VECCI, the Victorian Farmers’ Federation, ACTU – and other notable Victorians.

Together, they’ll form the brain of our economy – giving Victoria a real, long-term focus with a $500 million lever.

I also want to talk about our international investment.

Things are moving fast – nothing more so than growth and change in Asia.

And the Victorian Government has a China Strategy.

…but it was written in 2012.

It was written before the Free Trade Agreement, which is being signed today in Canberra.

It was written before the changes in commodity prices.

Before our state outlined the six high-growth industries that will define our future.

And before we started working closely with the booming provinces in Western China.

It’s three years old, but it may as well be thirty years old, because it’s out of date and it’s holding us back.

It’s not fit-for-purpose.

So we’re renewing it.

With the help of experts like John Denton from Coors Chambers Westgarth, we’re updating the strategy to reflect this new reality.

This time, it will include Sichuan Province – where Victoria, alone among Australian states, has an in-market presence.

And in September, I’ll be making my first official overseas visit as Premier – to China.

I hope some of the members of the Press Club here today can join me on the trip.

And I hope they like it, because they’ll need to get used to it.

Because I’ll be visiting China every single year I am Premier of this state.

We’ll also appoint a Deputy Trade Commissioner at the Victorian Government Business Office in China.

They will focus on – and be based in – the Western Provinces.

They – like all of our Commissioners – will be our eyes and our ears in this major overseas market.

Make no mistake: Our Commissioners are the ambassadors of our economy.

Our face to the world.

Victoria has the biggest network of Government Business Offices overseas.

The model has served us well – but the model needs to be refined.

We have nine positions, two of them vacant.

And the Labor Government is establishing three more offices – in Turkey, Singapore and Latin America.

So we’re going to see some new faces.

More women – and younger people, too.

These are not meant to be easy jobs.

Their bearers should be constantly chasing the deal – chasing every last dollar.

And the role should carry with it the relentless stress of the stock exchange floor.

So that’s why we’ll be establishing firm performance targets for our Government Business Offices overseas.

Targets for investment and job creation.

Targets for the number of companies that are brought through the door.

The Commissioners must meet these targets – the reporting regime will be tightened, and their performance will be made public.

The other thing I want to talk to you about today is about tourism and major events – our visitor economy.

It’s more than just a part of our state’s DNA.

It’s our edge.

It’s what sets us apart.

It contributes $20 billion to the Victorian economy and there’s an extraordinary potential for growth.

Just consider this:

If every visitor to Victoria stayed on for just one extra night, it would deliver another $2 billion to our economy every year.

Our Budget gave major events an $80 million boost – the biggest in a generation.

And a few months ago, the Labor Government also announced a comprehensive review of the Victorian Visitor Economy – the first of its kind in twenty years.

We need it.

Because we’ve never faced a more competitive tourism market, and what worked in the 90s and the 2000s is no longer enough.

Things need to change.

We have a lot of agencies dedicated to the sector.

A lot of agencies – and that’s the problem.

Victoria has more independent institutions working across the visitor economy than any other state or country around the world.

That means duplication.



Lost opportunities.

I recently received the interim findings of the Victorian Visitor Economy Review.

And they tell me that the sector is fragmented and lacking focus.

Too much strategy and not enough implementation.

And too many bureaucracies not working together.

I know this much:

Another long-term strategy document will not solve these problems.

The solution is clear.

We need a single, unified voice to sell the strengths of our state.

That’s why we’re going to bring every aspect of tourism, marketing and major events under the one roof.

We’ll end the duplication and get the cogs working together.

Because we can’t have a body responsible for major events – and a separate body responsible for the tourists that attend them.

We can’t keep pretending that makes sense.

We need one body with one mandate.

One body, with the independence and prominence it needs to promote our state.

One body, one voice and one clear plan:

…Attract more visitors, attract more events, create more jobs.

…Pull together the most aggressive tourism and major events marketing campaign this state has ever seen – the whole state, not just Melbourne.

…And make Victoria an even better place to live.

This isn’t a quick fix.

It’s a once-in-a-generation shakeup of the sector. A fundamental change at the heart of the tourism industry.

It’s about jobs, growth and investment. It’s also about the quality of our own lives, and the pride we can take in our state.

And all of it is bound by our decades of experience hosting some of the biggest events in the world.

That’s our strength.

Consider this:

Tonight, 90,000 people will be at the MCG to watch the State of Origin.

In a few weeks, 90,000 people will be at the MCG to watch Collingwood play Hawthorn.

A few weeks after that, 90,000 people will be at the MCG to watch Real Madrid play Man City.

Where else in the world can you fill a stadium that size – three times over – in a month, with three different sporting codes?

No one does major events like we do, and that’s still the case.

The Premier of New South Wales still has to travel to Victoria if he wants to know what a sell-out State of Origin crowd looks like.

That’s what gives our state the edge and gives us all a sense of pride.

Even if you can’t make it to the ground, or the theatre, or the gallery, there’s a real buzz in the air when there’s a major event in town.

It feels like home.

And that’s the part of us we have to find again.

  • Starting with jobs and investment – the heart of our economy.
  • Then to our Trade Commissioners – our face to the world.
  • Then to tourism and major events – the soul of our modern state.

It will take hard work and big decisions, but it has to be done.

We can’t live forever in a ‘90s haze.

And we can’t rely forever on the Kennett-Bracks legacy, because that light is already fading.

There are a few signs dotted around this place that say ‘Welcome to Melbourne – the World’s Most Liveable City’.

And I don’t want those signs to end up in a museum.

We have to do whatever we can to keep Victoria Number One.

We have to build a bold and bright future for our state, our economy and our people.

And we have to start now.

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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