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Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications
Role and potential of the National Broadband Network

FISHER, Mr Greg, Chief Executive Officer, Illawarra Business Chamber

CHAIR: I welcome the representative from the Illawarra Business Chamber. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that the hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. We have a written submission from the Illawarra Business Chamber. As you have probably observed, we are a very inquisitive committee with lots of questions. I invite you to make some opening comments to your submission, particularly so those who are listening to the broadcast can get a picture of it. Then we will do a question and answer session.

Mr Fisher : Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this inquiry. I want to talk to my submission and add to the inquiry as best as I can in terms of the business issues so that you leave here with the information that you need to make decisions. I want you to give you a really good flavour for the industry make up of the region. If I can achieve that today, I will be very happy.

I will provide a little bit of background on the Illawarra Business Chamber. It is a membership service organisation representing business in the region. It has 700 members across the Illawarra, predominantly in the SME market, although we do have a component of corporate and large members. Businesses in the region have mixed access to internet connections. Some businesses can access high speed ADSL2 broadband. Some businesses report that that is meeting existing needs. But other businesses and households have had to rely on mobile broadband, ADSL and dial-up connections because exchanges are full or because infrastructure constraints limit access. ADSL is broadband but at dial-up speeds.

Mobile broadband is also problematic in the area because of the region's topography. I know that the last speaker spoke to that. In preparing for this, we did not quantitative research, but we did qualitative research by talking to our members through our forum 10 Big Ideas to Grow the Illawarra and also by trying to talk to as many members as possible about this. I know that in the Woonona area, for example, under the escarpment and in the new estate, some home based businesses have trouble in terms of dial up, which is extremely frustrating for them. That is another example of how the geography of the region affects us.

On the industry make up of the region, there was a question about this that I am happy to provide an answer to. If you are not certain, steel making and manufacturing are still important in the region. There is growth occurring in the new service based sectors, such as IT, finance, professional services, education and community services. Nationally, health and community services make up about 10 per cent of GDP. You can extrapolate that to see the potential in those sectors. You would probably have had some submissions on the benefits of technology to health and education. The new sectors are more highly dependent on high-speed technology links than the traditional Illawarra industries.

Where has that shift come from? You are sitting in it. The University of Wollongong has driven that. I would imagine that if you asked them what they are on at the moment, they are probably on the top connection because they need that for their students. As a former tutor here in the mid 1980s and early 1990s, it was frustrating not to be able to have access for student learning. I recently did some tutoring work here and they now have the best facilities. That makes it easier and more efficient to study. Having those tools makes being in this region more enjoyable. That is the industry make up.

The business structure in the region is also undergoing change. Emerging professional service based firms tend to be smaller than the Illawarra's traditional manufacturing firms. They also tend to be more home based, at least initially. I am also on Regional Development Australia Illawarra, so I am blessed to be hanging around people like Geoff. The RDA believes that two-thirds of small business are now home based. Stephen Jones came up with that in the last submission. So we believe technology has a major role to play in facilitating growth in these businesses as they move up the business growth chain and start to grow and employ people.

In essence, we believe the NBN has the potential to have a positive impact on Illawarra businesses in a variety of ways, reducing travel time to clients and contacts interstate and nationally and developing personal links and client contacts via teleconferencing—and I thought how cool it would have been today to have had that NBN teleconference, but then I would not have seen the lovely Sharon Bird in person, so there are drawbacks to that!

CHAIR: It is amazing how good the tools can be! I might be a new and improved version!

Mr Fisher : I was talking to Jane at lunch: we could also live-screen what the surf is like! So we know what is working on a daily basis. You get better access to the information you need to run a business, faster completion of daily business operation tasks—for example, banking, ATO and other government links—reduced time spent with unreliable, slow connections and greater flexibility in performing many of these tasks. We think that the business in the region is well placed to take advantage of proximity to Sydney. This often means long travel times, which I know has been touched on, so I will just reinforce that. The NBN could bring Sydney closer to the Illawarra companies via express or high-speed conferencing facilities.

There is even the softer side of this, the personal links for local firms, looking to grow and establishing export markets—it is a less quantifiable thing, but online and off-line abilities to connect with clients are important. We in the chamber have our head office in North Sydney. We are using that connection and can feel connected to the mother ship in Sydney, have those relationships and see the nuances of people, so that is an exciting business development for us. How does that affect productivity? I do not know, but it certainly helps in relationships, and business is based on relationships, so that is one of those softer, less tangible sides.

Of course, you have probably heard all around the place about time-saving technology and productivity. You read that there is a concern about national productivity. Anything that helps either lower your costs or make things faster has to be championed in business. We believe that examples like the time taken to pay your taxes, connect to government agencies or gather information are sometimes frustrating and time-consuming. The home based businesses may be relying on outdated technology links.

I do not know with any great certainty what the future impacts will be. I can imagine that when the internet first came in people said, 'Well, what do you think the future is?' Sometimes you can only predict the future based on what you know now, but I think there is a leverage component in innovation. People will take this new technology and they will leverage it in ways that we probably are not currently thinking about, so we should encourage that leverage as well. In terms of your decision making, you get the tool and then encourage innovation around that leverage. I think there is a real opportunity, and that then links to business productivity. That is a personal opinion about creative processes. Obviously, too, we would like to see small businesses grow through that life cycle in the Illawarra.

We think that the NBN may also assist in attracting new business to the regions, especially if this region is seen as an early adapter—and, with its positioning of IT, finance and professional services, we could really give this region a distinct advantage. If people knew that the next phase of the rollout was here, and with the university, that could give us a really distinctive competence about business attraction.

That is just speaking broadly to my submission. I hope I have been able to cover the key points and put a context. I am happy to take some questions.

CHAIR: Great. Thanks, Greg. Thanks for the submission. I just want to take you to one sector. My deputy chair is not here today and he has been pursuing this with some interest around the country, so I will take it up for him—that is, the tourism sector. We have had varied evidence from around the country that the capacity, in particular, to have video and so forth on websites for tourism and to have online booking facilities for tourism facilities is a really important component of the modern tourism sector. In some places we have heard that very few even have websites. If they have websites, they are not interactive, in that you cannot do bookings on them and so forth. Tourism is obviously an important sector here. Do you have a picture of how that operates here and what your members from that sector are telling you about the constraints that they may have around that?

Mr Fisher : I do not have quantitative data on numbers, but I can give you some conversations that we have been having. I attended a Shellharbour tourism planning session, and I also have good links with tourism Illawarra. Also, in a general sense, there seems to be a theme of education running through the business sector on how to get the most out of taking a website from a mere shopfront through to a business which has that e-commerce backend. There have been a lot of government incentives in terms of getting people to go to that next speed, and there is also a lot of work being done on positioning your business, once you are in that medium, in terms of your search optimisation. So, to me, there has been a flurry of activity around improving people's use of that and educating them, because often uptake comes after the opportunity. I see that all the time in legislation introduction—you introduce the legislation, you do the explaining nationally, you get the early adopters and then you have this follow-through where you have to follow through and get people. I see us as being in that follow-through period. Website design has been in for a long time, shopfront design has been for a long time, so why are we now nationally explaining that and trying to get the most out of that business productivity?

I see locally a lot of activity around that education space, and I would flip over to anecdotally saying that that is supporting; that people are now switching on to the need to have that. Why do they need to have that? Because they need to get their message not only locally but also regionally. If you look at the core product of tourism, it is often the sizzle that sells. How do you best sell a sizzle? By interactive means. That would be my connection to your question in terms of what I am feeling and seeing on the ground.

CHAIR: Do you have some sense of whether there are particular problems at this point in time? What do you think the role for government best is, taking on board what you are saying about being in that phase where you have those proactive early adopters who have gone through? How do you see effective models for that being done? That does not have to be confined to the tourism sector; I think that message would translate across a number of sectors.

Mr Fisher : I think the government has quite clearly given business and other industry bodies an opportunity to explain in it. You have the harmonisation of OH&S happening. How you get the message out that all the train tracks in OH&S are lining up? How do you get the message out that you are incentivising apprenticeships? You do that through your networks. I often find that it is not until the opportunity comes to you or until the early adopters talk to people that you then have that lag. The government, I think, needs to find those early adopters or push the message and follow through with interesting and innovative messages which are online- and offline-type activities. The Illawarra Business Chamber has tried to position itself as something like a water cooler: you hang around us, you get your drink of water, you get your information and then out you go again. We try to do that in sector base. We have roughly 16 sectors that try to cover in the statistical area, so it is a big job to try to get information out.

To answer your question, I think there is a real opportunity for national explaining of what you are doing, targeting early adopters and using local organisations that can champion that, and then a follow-through sector while using an evaluation model. A lot of your funding is linked to evaluations, so you have that pretty well down. Then you could work your policy levers and say 'that worked' or 'that project didn't'. You know from the Kickstart program we did locally that that was a really good piece of information from research to a policy lever to an outcome called local employment. So I would recommend a similar model.

Mr FLETCHER: My first question to you relates to whether you are hearing from your members any reports of business opportunities that they are experiencing as a result of the trial in Kiama.

Mr Fisher : In preparing for that, I was expecting that we may get a question about how it is going in Kiama and about the uptake. I was fortunate to talk to Sandra McCarthy, who is the former mayor of Kiama, to get a sense of what it is like in that region. I got a real sense that there are a lot of home based businesses in the Kiama region; I could not give you the number. The opportunity in any business model is, as I have said before, uptake, opportunity to connect and also, I suppose, ability to transfer data. Those would be the general opportunities.

Have I had specific Kiama based businesses say 'you know, this is terrific' ? No, not yet. But I think there is an opportunity coming out of today to do some work. I got a sense from your last lot of questions that you could really have a stage 2 and then capture some of those, because that would be your roll-on effect for your evaluation.

Mr FLETCHER: You talked about the experience of your members as to the services they presently get. Is it a fair summary of that that what they get is pretty patchy and that some of them in fact cannot get broadband at all?

Mr Fisher : It is fair to say that some people on ADSL2 are happy with their connection currently—that is fair to say. Others, though, are on ADSL or dial up, and it is almost, 'How long have you got?' They really want to let fly. Particularly, there are areas, and they seem to be escarpment related, where there is just general frustration. You heard Geoff talking about the professional level—his level. So and I think there is a range, and I think there is a general desire to have the tool that you are using be the best and the fastest and most productive tool, whatever that is.

Mr FLETCHER: Can we draw from that that there is a message about ubiquity and uniformity—in other words, the same being available to all in the area.

Mr Fisher : I think that, if this is a communications tool, then you have to get the best tool that gets the best result. If ubiquity and uniformity is that, so be it. It is about business outcome, and I think that moving to a tool that gets a good outcome in terms of speed and capacity to leverage off that and use it would be best. Of course, you are talking across a range of sectors, so if you just talk, as a theme, about the most efficient tools to support business, then, if there is one, it may lead to that. But I am not going to sit here and specifying, because I am not a technical expert.

Certainly, when you look across sectors—you probably had a submission on the health sector and the business uptake in terms of medical—even for business productivity, if you need a day off and you are sick, what do you have to do? You have to go down to your doctor, which takes half a day. Imagine if that was online and the doctor could do interviews with you and you could schedule them so that you did not have to take time. That is a really simple idea for national productivity around days off.

Mr FLETCHER: But just to be clear: you are not putting to us, based upon what your members are saying, any particular speed or technology?

Mr Fisher : No; we are pitching business outcomes. We recognise that there are current outcomes for current need, but based on what we have read and what we have talked about and what we have seen, we think there are better outcomes in the future, and NBN provides those exciting outcomes.

Mr FLETCHER: Just to understand one aspect of what you have said in your submission—you have talked about telecommuting and about how you feel that improved broadband in the Illawarra will improve the area's competitive appeal to people thinking about where they might base themselves.

Mr Fisher : The relationship there is that we have tried to position ourselves almost as our lifestyle region—'look at this university's infrastructure and the way it's been positioned. It is University that feels as if it's in a bushland setting. You've got the beaches.'—so tourism positions that lifestyle area, and I am certain that, when you are wooing business to stay, grow or come here, that lifestyle factor is important. If you can live in what I think is one of the best places in the world—though I am sure the places all of you come from are terrific—that must be a competitive advantage in terms of the marketing aspect of the business attraction strategy, and the tool that enables you to do that is the fact that you are here.

Mr FLETCHER: I have one last question to follow up on that. As I read it, I was just wondering whether you have any concerns that ubiquitous broadband in a sense also increases the competitive pressure on any part of Australia, including this region.

Mr Fisher : We are a region, so there is also a danger of becoming a dormitory suburb, so I suppose that is the tension. But if you get your planning and your positioning right, then I think you can overcome that.

Mr HUSIC: This may be an unfair question but I am just going to put it out there and see whether or not the chamber has thought of what type of initiatives it may be able to undertake to maximise the engagement of local businesses. I am picking up on the point you made earlier about the leveraging element of technology. I am, I guess, conceptually picking that up and saying to businesses that there is a leveraging elementin that they can take advantage of this new network to do some of the things that you said earlier: lowering costs and speeding up processes. Has there been any thought given to that or are business is saying that this is something that they need to start doing?

Mr Fisher : I am tremendously aware that the federal government in, say, for example, infrastructure is saying that if you are putting a case forward put a business case. So what I have tried to do with the chamber is get some supporting data on that business case. We have been working in partnership with the Department of Innovative and Social Research here and we are putting forward a proposal to do some research around the impediments to small business. We are looking at some initial research funding. Currently the application is in. What is our vision there? Our vision is to understand what are the drivers or the impediments to small business. I am certain one of those would probably be access to technology. So then we can provide back to government data on that.

The other exciting thing here that the uni does—we have a strategic partnership with the uni—is an economic predictor model called an input-output model but at a local and regional level. I think that is has tremendous potential.

Mr HUSIC: Yes, the RDA was making some reference to this earlier.

Mr Fisher : Yes, the university, through the RDA State of the Regions, has done some presentations on this model and wants to position it as regionally significant—slicing it the data down to a regional level into sectors so that it can really give regional focus. They want to position it as the best regional input-output model, because there are lots of them around. Working with what the impediments and then putting projects in and working with the input-output model you will have business cases put forward that have got that real depth that you need then for your policy levers. That is what we are doing as a start. We are taking the anecdotal and moving it into that quantitative research area with the partnering with the university.

Mr HUSIC: The other thing I was going to ask was about the 10 big ideas. I was really attracted to this work that you have done in October last year and particularly in reference to the NBN and the comments made in the submission. Can you elaborate on that further for the benefit of the committee?

Mr Fisher : Certainly. Again, not just putting up a list of ideas; we wanted to have some depth and we wanted to have some ability to have some policy positions at the state and federal level—and local level. We basically spoke to our members through a series of one-on-one CEO forums at our business after hours and tried to flesh out the key issues in the region around productivity, infrastructure provision and vision and then formulate those into 10 big ideas, because our parent organisation, the New South Wales business chamber, had a statewide area. We wanted to provide some level of detail around that so there was an infrastructure priorities at the state, regional and local level, which we work with the RDA on. For example, the major federal one was the Maldon-Donbarton infrastructure, which is being done around that business case model. It is trying to show whether it is feasible and if so it is in the mix, whereas perhaps this region may have been positioned more as a wish-list region in the past. The 10 big ideas is part of that. It is premised around a vision and report card for the region and then enabling activities that help grow the economy. That is on our website.

Mrs PRENTICE: Greg, you mentioned in your submission the high youth unemployment rate—at times over 25 percent in recent times. How do you think NBN can help businesses to reduce this figure? What sort of businesses do you see and what sort of jobs being created to help the youth unemployment rate?

Mr Fisher : I will preface my comment by saying that my understanding of the youth unemployment rate is that there are pockets and generational youth unemployment issues. I think there are some structural issues there that transcend the NBN. I do not think the NBN is a panacea. We run the Illawarra Industry Apprenticeship Project, funded by the federal government, and we see a lot of apprentices come in and we talk to them, We get a real sense that technology is just part of their life. We also get a sense that there is some potential emerging sectors around the ICT area that could be growth sectors here and also training opportunities. How does the NBN help those hot spots of youth unemployment? I think it is a contributor to their ability to communicate and their ability to enthuse them in their career directions. Certainly with the support of the university and TAFE and other areas you may see in the future fewer traditional based apprentices and traineeships and more based on the digital arts and media. Through our project we are looking at that to see what the potential is. We are starting by talking with the sectors about whether there are training or other traineeship or apprenticeship opportunities in that area. I see that as an adjunct or support.

Mrs PRENTICE: You mentioned 700 members. How many of those are in the trial area? Did they all opt in?

Mr Fisher : I do not have those figures with me, but I can do some research for you on that. Of the 700, 60 per cent are SMEs. There are three local government areas, so the majority of our members would be in the Wollongong-Shellharbour areas. I can look at some information and find out the opt-in figure.

CHAIR: Kiama council might be able to give us that information.

Mr Fisher : Yes. I was thinking it would be good to ask Kiama council that question.

Mr STEPHEN JONES: Just looking at the 700 members, I assume the majority of them are from the retail sector.

Mr Fisher : No.

Mr STEPHEN JONES: In any event, I am interested in the retail aspect of your membership. I am sure you have some capacity to comment on it. I am particularly interested in the area of escape spending. For as long as I have lived in this area one of the mantras of local business has been their concern about escape spending. It no longer just means getting on the train and going to Sydney. It can mean getting on the web and buying something somewhere else in Australia or around the world. I am wondering whether, from the chamber's perspective, the NBN is seen as a benefit or a threat when it comes to dealing with the perennial issue of this kind of spending.

Mr Fisher : Let me just clarify. We cater for a number of business sectors: professional services, property, retail and construction. I would not say retail is the majority, but we do have a retail segment. To get to your question about escape spending, it is no secret that retail across the country has been rather subdued. I have seen growth figures of up to two per cent, rather than the usual six per cent per annum. How much of that is related to the economy and how much is related to industry forces I would not be able to comment on. It would be fair to say that shoppers are looking for different ways to shop. I think about it in terms of the Illawarra Business Chamber. We run offline networking connections because people still need that physical contact, but there is also now predominance in the growth of online and web contact in our area. So that is an opportunity and a threat for us in the chamber. It is an opportunity to move with the new tools to engage. The threat that is the old tools of offline, where we had large networking events, are probably going to shift. The customer stays with you. I have seen businesses that adapt and they have an online component to their business as well as the offline component. It is not an 'or' question; it is an 'and' question.

I am not a retail expert, but I would imagine that it is both an opportunity and a threat. I have seen people in the retail sector trying to create both sectors of the business, as we will do. We are going to move into the web and the online space but also keep our offline because human beings love to touch, feel and interact.

Mr STEPHEN JONES: It would be fair to say, though, that if the Illawarra businesses are not getting into that space they are going to be left behind.

Mr Fisher : Yes.

Mr SYMON: I would like to continue with that line of questioning, Greg, about the opportunities and threats. Has the chamber done any work on, or research into, the opportunities that might exist for businesses in this region to take over what was previously done in Sydney, for instance? For example, the delivery of professional services or various other things that are historically done in the capital city of each state, with new technology and access to that, could be done, realistically, anywhere.

Mr Fisher : Have we done any research into it? No. Are we taking up opportunities? We have a strong support network through the New South Wales Business Chamber. It would be fair to say that they are actively investigating how to best engage statewide and the use of online technology is important in that. If I understand your question correctly, it is about professional services that are Sydney based and could be run out of the Illawarra or you could access them online rather than having to go to Sydney.

Mr SYMON: Both really. If you could access them online, why do they have to be in a capital city?

Mr Fisher : I agree. In our case we are a nine-person small business as a chamber. If you need, say, to do some training, it is quite a cost to put people in cars and send them to your head office to do training. If you have online capability—which we have just invested in—it is terrific training and almost as good as being in a room with someone. It is very efficient and you do not need to have people out of the office. You can continue to run your business. You can still feel like you are miles away because you use the conference facilities downstairs. Having said that, my people still crave that personal contact, we also enjoy them when they do come down, so there is that mix of off and online. So it is a question of 'and' rather than 'or'. Certainly, in our own personal case with me running the chamber's business, it is terrific having all that technology to be able to hook into this and get your training and your uplift. To get to Sydney by nine o'clock what have you got to do? You have to get up at about 5:30 so there goes the bike ride for the morning and then you jump on the train or in the car. You need to park. You are out of there by five and you are not home until 7.30 or eight o'clock. That is your day.

Mr SYMON: That leads into my next question about the 20,000 commuters who travel to Sydney each day. Obviously, if you can reverse some of that or make it not needed then that time is better invested in families and community than sitting on a train or in a traffic jam.

Mr Fisher : Certainly when we were arguing our infrastructure for the 10 big ideas quite often business will argue a hard business case but there is a human side. We often argue the cultural side and the cultural side is just as you have explained. I have done that commute and being family oriented I very much enjoy living and working here—it is just great for your mental health, you have more sense of a place. So I agree with that. Obviously, there are the links to fuel costs, carbon technology and the whole capacity in your transport network. When I was at Wollondilly Shire we got really interested in the fact that 40 per cent of the people travel out of the shire but there is a component who travel down here as well. The fact that people are travelling is the key thing. What is the impact of that both on time spent and stress levels—that human factor? Yes, I agree.

Mr SYMON: I think it is probably true that all major cities have that problem. People have historically gone from out to in.

Mr Fisher : There is even another effect. If you are in Shellharbour, you have to add another 45 minutes because it is roughly an hour and a half. I have even seen people who have done the tree change and live in Kiama or Gerringong and travel.

Mr STEPHEN JONES: Two hours a day each way.

Mr Fisher : Yes. I say, 'How do you handle that?' They say, 'Luckily the office has allowed me to dial in and connect and gee my life has been better.' Again it is not hard research but they are stories you come across all of the time. Why? Because people want to live in a region and have a lifestyle but actually be in the lifestyle.

Mr SYMON: So you have anecdotal evidence that that is already having an effect. Obviously, with more capacity that should become a bigger effect.

Mr Fisher : Yes, providing the tool helps the people then have the business uplift. You still have to have the business there to start with otherwise it is a home based dream. I see that increasing. I see members talking to us about that or they have made their choice or they are looking at an option to be able to do some of that from home and they have negotiated with their employer in Sydney. It is almost as though the flexible workplace is starting to be supported by the tool.

Mr SYMON: Thank you.

CHAIR: I want to finish up on one last thing. When we were in Townsville, one of the groups of witnesses we spoke to was from a local small business incubator that had worked with a small telecoms provider to set up a fibre based system. They had a program for what they called 'mumpreneurs', who are women running home based businesses. I remember that at one of your award ceremonies I met a woman who was doing a wedding card business online and some others. It is one thing to say that all this is happening out here, but how do you connect with them? Identifying them, getting a sense of the numbers and engaging with that sector is challenging. If you have done that, is there a particular model or some mechanism or tool that it would be useful for government to look at?

Mr Fisher : I agree that there are some emerging sectors in the business segment among youth and women. There are a number of people who are gravitating towards that. We do not have a specific women's sector in the chamber. We tend to look at issues across all businesses. But we have good links with Illawarra Women in Business and the Junior Chamber International. We have mechanisms for fleshing out those businesses. We run an annual business awards process and we encourage people to tell their stories. We are also linked to local government and RDA Illawarra et cetera. We have a very good feel for that home based area. You are right: the business that you are talking about was Pure Wipes, which won. Two friends who worked in Sydney and who were living in Stanwell Park wanted to live the dream and have a business. They were exporting to the world from their little home in Stanwell Park.

CHAIR: Another person who I met with had a business called Inika.

Mr Fisher : Inika Cosmetics, yes. What we try and do is encourage them to tell their stories and promote themselves. That helps them in the lifecycle of their business, because they get momentum. How does technology help? To have a face to the world, you probably need a fairly good website and a commercial back end that helps you. You probably need export support. The chambers and other government organisations help support them through their phases of business growth. There is a really good state department that has a start, run and grow section. They try to get businesses to move through their lifecycles. We as a chamber try to position ourselves to add that next layer of support. Two of the key success factors for us are online and off line connections. In this region, you get a real sense of being a community. People love to share their stories and feel part of it. You can only do that through interpersonal connections. But that does not mean that interpersonal connections cannot in the future be through Skype or other online platforms. Then you can have a cup of coffee later. That is really time efficient. Yes, there is emerging sector. I love the term 'mumpreneur'. I love when they brand things. That is gold; I wish that I had thought of that.

Mrs PRENTICE: I do not think that they have copyrighted it.

Mr Fisher : We can help them with their IP. I support that. Regions feel good about themselves because of those success stories. If you can them to stay, that is good. There is tremendous affinity for this place; people feel that this is a great place to live. If you can get people to want to base here and grow and stay, and technologies enable that, then bring it on.

CHAIR: Things like awards nights and telling your story are very important.

Mr Fisher : Yes. And workshops. We have monthly business after hours discussions. There is a large offline component to get people to come in and meet and greet and feel connected. As I said to you, I see a growing ability to connect with people in that online space in a more interpersonal way than just an email.

Mr HUSIC: I have downloaded the 10 Big Ideas to Grow the Illawarra document, which is really good. Are the NBN references primarily in section 7, which is headed 'Deliver Illawarra region catalyst and transport projects'?

Mr Fisher : We listed priority federal infrastructure projects, including Maldon and the NBN. It should be in there.

Mr HUSIC: Yes, the F6, Maldon and so on.

Mr Fisher : Yes. We thought that infrastructure deserved its own category, and there is a separate paper on that as to the logic behind those projects. I am on various committees to help promote and give input into those priorities.

Mr HUSIC: Thank you for your time.

CHAIR: Thank you for your attendance today. If you have undertaken to provide any additional information would you please forward it to the secretary? You will be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence to which you can make corrections of grammar and fact. Thank you very much.