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Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Page: 2113

Smart Specialisation Strategy


Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (14:34): My question is to the Cabinet Secretary, Senator Sinodinos, representing the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. Can the Cabinet Secretary inform the Senate about the smart specialisation strategy in the Hunter, which was launched by the Prime Minister today?


Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:34): I thank Senator Williams for his question. He is a great advocate for all things New South Wales in this parliament, including the role of regional New South Wales and the role of industry, innovation and science in regional New South Wales.

Perhaps unlike those opposite, it was a pleasure to join with the Prime Minister today as well as the member for Paterson to officially launch the smart specialisation strategy put up by the RDA from the Hunter. The smart specialisation strategy is an initiative of the European Union where local regions identify their own particular competitive advantages and work out how to generate increased economic growth from this knowledge.

RDA Hunter has taken the learnings from the EU's experience and applied it to Newcastle and the Hunter region. It is the first region in Australia to use this model and undertake such an analysis. Working with the EU delegation to Australia, UTS, the Commonwealth and many local business and community partners, RDA Hunter has spent the last three months composing a smart specialisation strategy for their region supported by five underlying principles: locally driven process—locals know what their regions comparative advantages and disadvantages are; a focus on innovation—innovation policy tailored to the local context; functional economic zones, not regional boundaries—for example, based on labour markets or transport flows—and functional zones can include connections between regional centres and cities; more effective spending of public resources; funding targeted to strengthen regional comparative advantage and initiatives to create sustainable jobs and growth; evaluation and monitoring—evidence based feedback into policy with clear benchmarks and measurable goals to assess success and failure.


Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (14:36): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the Cabinet Secretary outline some of the key outcomes of the smart specialisation strategy?


Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:36): Thank you, Mr President. It was found that the Hunter had seven competitive advantages: food and agribusiness; mining equipment technology and services; medical technologies and pharmaceuticals; oil, gas and energy resources; advanced manufacturing; defence; and creative industries. From here the strategy outlines a way forward to play on these identified strengths. It outlined two key enablers that were seen as drivers for these industries. The first is leveraging high-speed broadband. The second is building a strong workforce based on STEM—science, technology, engineering and maths.

I have spoken in this place before about RDA Hunter. They perform a terrific role in one of Australia's largest regional cities. I particularly want to acknowledge Todd Williams, the Chief Executive Officer of RDA Hunter, who has been a tireless advocate for economic growth in the Hunter region.


Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (14:37): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Will the Cabinet Secretary detail ways in which the government is supporting initiatives such as the smart specialisation strategy?


Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:37): Firstly, the government is committed to the National Broadband Network—

Senator Fifield: Hear, hear!

Senator SINODINOS: under the stewardship of the best Minister for Communications and Minister for the Arts ever, unlike those opposite, who lived in a deluded Conrovian world where major national infrastructure was literally drawn up on the back of envelopes. This government is getting on with the job of rolling out faster internet connection speeds to Australian households and businesses, including those in Newcastle and the Hunter.

The government are improving STEM outcomes across Australia, building a more STEM-literate workforce, a key component of our Innovation and Science Agenda. Regions like the Hunter will prosper off the back of other nationwide initiatives, including the signing of three signature free trade agreements, with Japan, South Korea and China, and now the Trans-Pacific Partnership.