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Brand NSW: enlightened self-interest

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6 May 2010 10:40

Claudia Mangel is a researcher for the Australia and the World project at the Lowy Institute and a former lawyer. She is currently completing further studies in Public Administration on an NGO scholarship at the Graduate School of Government at the University of Sydney.

In the same month Austrade is set to unveil its re-vamped and much anticipated Brand Australia campaign, this week's Wednesday Lowy Lunch was delivered by New South Wales Liberal Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell, outlining his vision for a Brand NSW.  Defying the explicit characterisation of matters external to Australia as the domain of the Commonwealth government under the Constitution, and voluminous High Court judgments on the topic, O'Farrell espoused an ambitious agenda in which New South Wales would adopt what he termed an 'enlightened self interest' when it comes to its brand and international dealings.  O'Farrell considers that this will assist in restoring NSW to its status as Australia's 'premier state'. 

Unsurprisingly, O'Farrell’s vision was heavily accented with the suggestion of maximising our trading partnerships with the emerging tigers, China and India, and their 500-million-strong emerging middle classes.  The potency of his message was enhanced by his revelation that over half of the Hindi, Cantonese and Mandarin speakers in Australia reside in New South Wales.  O'Farrell was unambiguous about the urgent need to harness New South Wales' existing cultural diversity and leverage it to maximise the state's revenues, capacity for economic growth and future.  More than once O'Farrell acknowledged his motivations as unabashedly venal. 

In relation to the spectre of competition between the states (for instance, New South Wales and Queensland in relation to coal) and between the states and the federal government for international business, O'Farrell responded by championing state-state, state-federal competition, as well as acknowledging the value of the 'government crest' in opening doors.  He also suggested that opening international state offices would supplement rather than duplicate Austrade's current role, and provide a distinctly New South Wales-orientated business development and networking agenda.  O'Farrell then hammered his message home by noting that New South Wales lags sadly behind Queensland and Victoria in the number of state offices currently located in the lucrative Asian markets. 

O'Farrell concluded by outlining how his particular Brand NSW and 'enlightened self interest' could be attained.  His suggestions included: 

  • recruiting specific trade officers to seek out and capitalise on emerging and existing business opportunities and mitigate risks;
  • establishing multicultural business and export-import development panels administered by business, not-for-profit, industry, higher education and non-government interests to supplement the current work of the NSW Asia Pacific Business Council;
  • establishing Sydney as a (true) global financial capital and as a centre for development finance for developing;
  • positioning the New South Wales public service a destination for developing nation expertise;
  • facilitating and encouraging the increased headquartering of NGOs in Sydney, and
  • fostering further partnerships within and across private, not-for-profit and non-government sectors. 

An ambitious agenda, and one which hinges on victory in the New South Wales state elections in March 2011.

Photo by Flickr user Christopher Chan, used under a Creative Commons licence.

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