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Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee
Future role and contribution of regional capitals to Australia

BETTESS, Mr Peter Robert, General Manager, Planning and Tourism, City of Greater Geelong

CARBINES, Ms Elaine, Chief Executive Officer, G21, Geelong Region Alliance

CASSON, Ms Rebecca, Chief Executive Officer, Committee for Geelong

den HOLLANDER, Professor, Vice-Chancellor, Deakin University

LYONS, Councillor Darryn, Mayor, City of Greater Geelong

SIMMONDS, Mr Dan, Chairperson, Committee for Geelong


CHAIR: Welcome. Before we go to the formalities I must declare an interest. I spent six months at Belmont High School here in Geelong. I am a paid-up member of the Geelong Football Club. I am a member of the Fed Cats, which is a group of federal parliamentarians who are all Geelong supporters. That was set up by the federal member for Corio, Richard Marles, who is a very good friend of mine. So I am conflicted in all things Geelong, even though I am from Perth. I keep telling Brian Cook, as he is well aware, that I am the prodigal son, and I annoy the living daylights out of him when he does come back to the west.

Now the formalities. The committee has received your submissions as Nos. 30, 34, 12 and 17 respectively. Would anyone like to make any amendments or additions to their submissions? No. Tremendous! By the way, none of us came by helicopter! I invite all of you to make a brief opening statement should you wish and, to make it easier, because we do have people listening, as I have called you in your order I will work my way along the table. Mr Simmonds.

Mr Simmonds : Thank you. On behalf of the Committee for Geelong I have a few brief comments to make. We have read all of the submissions of the other organisations here today and want to highlight a couple of points. The first is that Deakin University specifically referred to the revitalisation of central Geelong. We want to reinforce our absolute support for that notion. The City of Greater Geelong has done a significant amount of work to date through its Central Geelong Task Force. The state Labor government has now appointed the Geelong Development Authority to assist in that regard. Our written submission perhaps did not sufficiently focus on that, and we would like to fully endorse that component of Deakin's submission.

The central focus of our submission was the need for a long-term strategic second-tier or regional city economic development strategy or policy for Australia. Second cities play a significant role in planning and investment in our country. We made a number of references in our submission to some overseas work, including such things as work undertaken for the European Union called Second Tier Cities and Territorial Development in Europe, which looked very much at their second-tier city policy. I also refer the committee to the work of KPMG in relation to magnet cities, which looked at the need for strong leadership and revitalisation of central city hearts led by strong leadership, young entrepreneurs et cetera.

The Committee for Geelong believes that as Geelong continues to transform we would welcome further infrastructure spending, but we urge against overlooking the potential social and economic impacts that that investment would have. We would look to have surrounding policies and processes in place to ensure that those issues were not overlooked. We believe that Geelong can play a real part in strengthening Melbourne and easing the problems of Melbourne, because of its connectivity. We look at second-tier cities policies about what makes a strong second-tier city—although we hate the term 'second-tier city'. With our education networks led by Deakin but also with the other institutions, led by the infrastructure programs augmented across our region by G21, we think we have the perfect environment to play a vital role in Victoria's development, easing the problems with Melbourne et cetera.

We raise out of left field the fact that, although a lot of the development is run through things such as Regional Development Victoria and Regional Development Australia, those regions run to the state border. We are proposing that if a recommendation coming out of this inquiry is that there be a real focus on the development of second cities, that might incorporate a review of that type of structure so that with Regional Development Australia Geelong is not in the same area as Warrnambool, for example, or Portland—that in fact there is a specific process around Geelong truly coordinated at all levels of governance and business.

Finally there are common themes in the submissions: Avalon rail and road connectivity to Melbourne, broadband, convention centre et cetera. We urge you also to have regard to such things as the potential of the defence industry here. Geelong Defence Alliance is not just about LAND 400; it is about the opportunity for more government spending on such things as that. There is reference in a number of the papers to Austrade.

We remain concerned that the overseas focus of economic development is very much on the capital cities and not on the regions. The Committee for Geelong were lucky enough recently to go to the state of Virginia in America and look at the way in which they do economic development. Fairfax County, which borders Washington DC, has 10 overseas representatives attracting business to their region. We urge that Austrade should have a bit more regional capital focus than the Melbourne-Sydney—et cetera—-centric nature it has at the moment.

We very much welcome the recent initiative of the federal government to fund the P-TECH in Geelong. We believe that that is a real opportunity to change the nature of education. I was lucky enough to visit the initial P-TECH in Brooklyn and saw that after four years, in a really disadvantaged neighbourhood, of the original 103 students, 96 are still in education. That is a tremendous result and we very much look forward to the P-TECH coming to Geelong.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Can you explain what P-TECH is?

Mr Simmonds : It is short for Pathways in Technology. It is based on STEM. Finally, we very much believe in the commitment of Brand Geelong, as represented by you today. There is still some work to be done to get to the fundamentals of that, but we believe in Geelong as a region and we would welcome further focus on it by the federal government.

CHAIR: Thanks, Mr Simmonds. You are right: we have to find another word for 'second-tier cities'.

Ms Carbines : Thank you for the opportunity to speak to my submission on behalf of G21 Geelong Region Alliance. Our alliance is about 12 or 13 years old now, and it is a formal alliance between the five councils in the G21 region—the City of Greater Geelong, the Borough of Queenscliffe, Surf Coast Shire, Golden Plains Shire and Colac Otway Shire—plus about 190 member organisations that operate in our community, from community associations to multinational industry and business. We have a formal role through the federal and state governments as the regional strategic planning committee for our region, which gives us an opportunity to advise both the state and federal governments in relation to priorities for our region.

The G21 region covers about 10,000 square kilometres and has 300,000 residents living in the region, predominantly in the City of Greater Geelong, where there are about 220,000 people living. Geelong is our region's capital city. Everybody that lives in the G21 region connects with Geelong in some way, be it for employment, tertiary education, hospital provision, entertainment or hospitality. No matter where you live in the G21 region, you have a connection to our capital city, Geelong.

The region is growing quite steadily, at about 1.5 per cent per annum, but we know from forward projections from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that we are expected to grow from a region of 300,000 currently to 500,000 by the year 2050, so we are expecting another 200,000 people to live in our region over that time. We are ready for that. We have done a lot of planning as the regional strategic planning committee to prepare our region for its future growth and for the role that it will play not just in Victoria but in our nation.

So we have a plan, the Geelong Region Plan, which is a high-level strategic document which I have forwarded to you in my submission. It looks at where we would like our region by 2050. What are our community's aspirations for 2050? Sitting underneath that, we have done a regional growth plan which is looking at where those extra 200,000 people will live over the next 20, 30 or 40 years. Rather than wait for them all to come travelling down the highway, we have done a lot of strategic planning about where they are going to live, where they are going to work and, importantly, what infrastructure is needed to support a population of 500,000 people. That is pretty much fundamental to our request to you to look at the infrastructure needs of our regional cities if they are going to play the role that you wish them to play in our nation's future.

Since I made my submission, we have also done a major piece of work which I would like to submit to you today.

CHAIR: Would you like to table it?

Ms Carbines : Yes, please. Thank you. It is a piece of work aimed at addressing disadvantage in our region. We have areas of our region where there are significantly high levels of unemployment and high levels of welfare recipients. We estimate some 10 per cent of our population are living on the poverty line. So we have done a major piece of work called GROW, G21 Region Opportunities for Work, which is looking at how we actually address disadvantage in our region by giving people the opportunity to access training and employment that will lead to a proper job. I am very pleased to commend that piece of work to you today, and I hope the committee has a chance to have a look at it, because I think it has application not only for our region but for elsewhere in Australia, because this is not an issue that confronts our region alone. So I am very pleased to commend that to you.

Obviously, regarding infrastructure, transport infrastructure is critical in our region. We are pretty underdone in relation to public transport in the G21 region. An example of this is the city of Colac, which only has three trains per day that come into Geelong, and therefore three trains that they can use to access further into Melbourne. That is a poor—

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I am sure Senator Di Natale would agree with you.

Ms Carbines : I am sure Senator Richard Di Natale agrees with me that this is not good enough if we are going to play the role that you want us to play in the future of Australia. I commend to you our recommendations in relation to public transport. A major issue for us is the congestion on the West Gate Bridge. The approach to Melbourne, road wise, is poor. The West Gate Bridge and the fact that there is not a second crossing of the Maribyrnong and Yarra Rivers seriously impedes the growth of our region and the productivity of our region.

We are very underdone in this region in relation to the NBN. We are starting to feel like we are disadvantaged in our region compared to other cities around the nation. I urge you to have a look at the forward rollout of the NBN in our region, because it leaves a lot to be desired. Even urban areas of Geelong are without the connectivity that is needed. In fact, all of our secondary schools have banded together to lobby the state and federal governments to invest in broadband capacity, because our students are getting left behind in relation to e-learning in our region.

We are very much wanting to create jobs in our region as we confront the issues affecting manufacturing in our region. We have seen some major employers close, but our region is transforming its economy and we have high growth in health, education, advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, tourism and hospitality. But we need help to further that employment growth.

CHAIR: Ms Carbines, I really do not want to be rude but I am keen to hear from everyone. More so, we are all keen to ask some questions, too.

Ms Carbines : Thank you for the opportunity. We are keen to play our role in the future of Australia.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. I hope I did not sound rude.

Ms Carbines : No, you did not at all.

CHAIR: Professor den Hollander?

Prof. den Hollander : Thank you, senators. Universities such as Deakin have a role in stimulating innovation and productivity and driving the economic, social and cultural growth of the region. Our aspiration is for Geelong to be a university town—a smart city in the new sense of the 21st century, where wealth is created through education and jobs for the industries of the future.

Deakin has 50,000 students. We sit in the top 400 of universities worldwide, we are the eighth largest in Australia and we are headquartered in Geelong. In Geelong we have 11,600 students, plus a further 13,000 who come to us through the cloud. The university's growth over the last decade has been a massive and sustainable investment in the region. A 2014 Deloitte Access Economics report showed that Deakin contributed about $426 million annually to the regional economy. From this, there were 3,124 full-time equivalent jobs in the local community, including 1,539 directly at our Waterfront or Waurn Ponds campuses. From a student retention rate point of view, we are an overachiever. We sit above the national average in student retention and students staying at university. The average for Geelong is 86 per cent—if you are interested—and the average for Warrnambool is 86 per cent. We are a five star in the Good Universities Guide on retention—that is as high as you can go. We also contribute to the region's cultural capital through financial support of such places as the Geelong Performing Arts Centre, the Deakin Cats Community Centre, the Word for Word National Non-Fiction Festival, the Belmont BioLAB and, of course, the Deakin-funded engagement and access program for socially disadvantaged schools across the entire region. There is also substantial local advocacy.

I would like to raise a couple of issues. The first is international student growth, which is an ambition for the city, for the state and—of course—for the national government. The university is the largest higher education provider in regional Victoria. In 2014 we received the Premier's Award for international education. The international student population in our Geelong campuses has grown by 60 per cent over the last five years. That contributes $50 million per annum and an estimated 354-odd jobs. However, the availability of appropriate student accommodation will be critical if regional cities are to be a preferred destination for international students—and they are. The university benefited enormously from the Commonwealth's now defunct National Rental Affordability Scheme, NRAS. We built over 300 beds in Geelong and a further 100 in Warrnambool. All of these beds are occupied by regional students, as is required by the NRAS agreements.

In order to attract additional international students, the university must now fund from its own reserves. We are doing that; we are simply not doing it fast enough. If the nation is interested in attracting international students to regional Australia, it could do worse than fund a scheme to ameliorate the horrendous housing costs for which Australia is now globally famous and where our competitors, the United Kingdom and the United States, look affordable and accessible. We believe Deakin is demonstrating how higher education delivers and exports are already central to the economy of our regional capital but we also see our role in stimulating innovation and productivity. As Geelong transitions from old manufacturing to a new era of machines and additives, we believe there is much we can add and are adding, with industry knowhow, to high-wage, high-skill jobs in our regions. The example we want to use is Carbon Nexus.

Carbon Nexus was funded by Australian and Victorian governments and the university to build a world-leading carbon fibre research line. Carbon Nexus is now an increasingly significant element of Australia's research infrastructure. Most importantly for Geelong, it has secured Carbon Revolution, the world's leading producer of carbon fibre wheels, and also Quickstep, whose automotive division is moving to Geelong and onto our Waurn Ponds campus. These two companies employ over 120 skilled staff, many of whom have been retrenched from Ford, Alcoa and Qantas engineering and have been reskilled by a combination of Deakin and those companies. The good news we think is that other companies want to follow suite and have access to the skilled workforce, which can also be reskilled by an environment which includes the university and for-profit enterprises such as Carbon Revolution and a couple of others which I will not go into now. We are working with the City of Greater Geelong, our industry partners and the government to build on this early success of an innovation precinct.

ManuFuture Geelong, the next stage, will be a state-of-the-art product incubator to allow industry and entrepreneurs access to the infrastructure and the researchers we have on our Waurn Ponds and Waterfront campuses. The list of companies keen to take up space has demonstrated to the council and the university that ManuFuture Geelong will be the next important economic attractor for Geelong. The City of Greater Geelong is seeking funding from the Commonwealth's Stronger Regions Fund for this important next phase.

Alongside this innovation in engineering and automotive, health services is another regional growth sector for us. The university has built its regional health hub and established its regional medical school in the innovation precinct. This persuaded Epworth HealthCare to set up Epworth Geelong, a 250-plus bed hospital adjacent to our Waurn Ponds campus, generating another—I do not know the precise number of jobs but in excess of 500. And just as our new health hub has attracted a new provider to Geelong, we are aiming to use the universities iiNet network, our NBN connector, for all libraries and the 40,000 students in local schools in the wider Geelong area to give them the greater speeds, lower cost and for many years in advance of the NBN. You cannot train for the jobs of the future without high-speed digital connectivity.

CHAIR: Hear, hear!

Prof. den Hollander : School is where the journey must begin. The process is proving to be a difficult one. To get the funding we are almost on the verge of saying we will do it ourselves. We must enable ways to bridge low retention and attainment rates in our regional schools if we are to prevail.

CHAIR: Sorry, Professor, do you have much more to go?

Prof. den Hollander : In conclusion, I thank you for listening.

CHAIR: As usual, my timing is anything but perfect.

Councillor Lyons : As mayor of the city and as chair of G21, I welcome you to Geelong today and thank the committee for holding the hearings in our city. As outline in the council's submission to the inquiry, Geelong plays an extremely important role as Victoria's second major city. It also plays an important role as a capital city for south-west Victoria. Geelong is in incredible transition right now. From its origins built on grain and wool, Geelong transformed into an industrial economy with the arrival of International Harvester, Ford, Shell and Alcoa.

With the decline in traditional manufacturing over recent years, we as a city have transformed into an extremely diverse economy: retaining our port origins for grain, wood products and petroleum; building a service sector, particularly in insurance, health and of course great education; developing as a transport hub with Avalon airport, Victoria's second airport, standard and broad-gauge rail and a road network that is connecting the south-east of Australia; developing as a tourism destination, which is vitally important, with outstanding beaches, highly regarded food and wine in the Bellarine region; and of course developing as a sporting capital, with the prominent Geelong AFL Cats—giddy-up, go Cats!—and now the internationally listed Cadell Evans bike race which started right in the waterfront here last year and attracted many tens of thousands of people.

The Commonwealth government has an important role to play in supporting regional capitals' contribution to Australia. This is evidenced by decisions to relocate the NDIA and a part of the Australian Bureau of Statistics to Geelong as well as to contribute funding to the new and soon to be opened Geelong Library and Heritage Centre. The council submission highlights Geelong's responses to the terms of reference of the inquiry.

Finally, unfortunately, due to pressing commitments that I have today with regard to economic development, I ask the committee for leave to be excused from the hearing as I have a further engagement with overseas investors in town.

CHAIR: I think they are more important than us.

Councillor Lyons : But I would like to introduce you to someone who you will be able to speak to. Peter Bettess is the council's General Manager Planning and Tourism. Peter will provide evidence in relation to the council's submission to the inquiry. Thank you very much and thank you for being here in Geelong.

CHAIR: We wish you all the best in your negotiations this afternoon. Thank you, Mayor. Mr Bettess, did you want to add to the mayor's opening statement?

Mr Bettess : No.

CHAIR: You have given us a few topics: manufacturing, education, broadband, employment, housing, public transport, infrastructure. So there are going to be a host of questions, and I am sorry if we appear to be rushing you. In fact, if I had my way we would spend the whole weekend here in Geelong. The only unfortunate thing is you guys have to go up to the MCG tomorrow night! As the local senator from Geelong, Senator Di Natale —who is not a member of the Geelong Football Club—would you like to open the batting?

Senator DI NATALE: I support the Cats—just the big Cats, not the little ones. There are many things that I could talk to you about, but I think these inquiries often tend to focus on some of the negatives. Perhaps what we could do is look at a couple of positive examples, just to demonstrate what impact they have had on the local community. Obviously there have been two big developments for the town. We know that the closure of the automotive industries and so on has been of big concern. But tell us about the impact of the decision to move the Transport Accident Commission and now the National Disability Insurance Scheme here to Geelong. What has that done in terms of opportunities for residents in the region?

Mr Bettess : I will start. I think the major contribution has been the creation of an insurance industry in Geelong, because the relocation of the TAC here attracted and is attracting a number of law firms and other firms that are involved in the insurance industry to locate offices in Geelong. With the NDIA coming in on the back of the TAC and also the decision to relocate the Victorian WorkSafe to Geelong, I think that Geelong will be developing as a real hub for insurance expertise. With the National Disability Insurance Agency it will also be a centre for a number of the industries that relate to disability services. That is everything from modifying vehicles, modifying wheelchairs and equipment and other things that are required, right through to the people who provide the clinical type of support.

Senator DI NATALE: Was that a conscious decision? Was there a conscious decision at some point to say we are going to specialise or become a hub for the insurance sector and all of these services that stem from that, or was it just the initial decision to relocate one big government agency which has then led to some of the developments that you have talked about?

Ms Carbines : The decision by the Bracks government to relocate the TAC to Geelong really was the start of us thinking big about what we could be in terms of public administration in our city. The TAC has been very successfully relocated, and it has been a demonstration project showing that we can operate a major government authority here in a regional city. Then, of course, the NDIA is to be located here. It is already starting to operate from Geelong. It is providing an enormous employment sector for a sector of the region's population that usually would have had to travel outside of our region to get those white collar jobs, so it has been really important. Again, we are now having WorkSafe moving to Geelong, further building on that potential from the first decision.

Mr Simmonds : I do not have the exact percentages, but when TAC moved here the number of jobs that were taken up—and have increasingly been taken up—by locals is much more than they thought would happen. The point that Elaine makes in relation to employment is critical, particularly in the professional services. The number of lawyers, for example, that TAC employ here in jobs that would not otherwise be available for local people training at Deakin has meant that our economy, in that regard, has shifted.

CHAIR: We know that the previous government wanted to set up the NDIS here in Geelong—or start here. What is the NDIA?

Ms Carbines : That is the National Disability Insurance Agency. So that is the headquarters.

CHAIR: Okay. We just picked up the word 'relocated'.

Ms Carbines : Yes.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Was it set up here or relocated?

Ms Carbines : It was actually going to be operated from Canberra, and there was major lobbying activity from our region to have it located here.

Mr Simmonds : And we are the test site for Victoria. So, in effect, there are two institutions here; there is the test site and there is the NDIA headquarters. That is having a direct effect at the moment, because there is a public tender about to be launched in relation to the building here of a headquarters. One of the things that Geelong has lacked is that type of major building infrastructure in its CBD area.

CHAIR: How many jobs has that brought? You are talking about a building, what sort of building? Are we going to see a high rise?

Mr Simmonds : WorkSafe, I understand, will be 700-plus when they move. The NDIA is 300 plus the local infrastructure. They are big buildings in terms of Geelong. At the moment, there is still some issue about whether they are going to co-locate to further get this centre of excellence type thing. I do not think that the NDIA tender is out yet, but the WorkSafe one definitely is.

Prof. den Hollander : The only thing that I would add is that what we have managed to now achieve is a centre of excellence. With the co-location of the university and all of the businesses that you have heard about, we have created the centre of excellence around insurance and disability, which is going to be one of a kind in Australia. The back-up to that is that the university has been involved in very significant training packages and then education, because of course there is a whole fleet of people who need to be reskilled to the next level because of the legislation and what it will take in terms of assessors and then in terms of care. So that centre of excellence sits there.

On our campus, interestingly, we have just been talking to a number of people with assistive technologies, who are relocating to Geelong wanting to be with the university, and who are looking at everything from automated wheelchairs to prosthetic feet or hands—depending on whatever the various things are—related to either NDIS, the TAC or to WorkSafe. It is a very interesting co-location, which is spawning a level of skilled jobs all of its own as that whole commercial side of that business is serviced. It will be interesting to see, if you come back in five years, what it looks like. Hopefully, we will be the 'go to' place globally for assistive technology and for insurance.

CHAIR: I will take up that offer. Hopefully, I am still around in the Senate in five years time.

Prof. den Hollander : You may need a bit of assistive technology!

Senator DI NATALE: That is the good news. Obviously, we hear a lot about the bad news stories—the closure of plants and so on. Ms Carbines, you mentioned the issue of transport. One of the things that defines regional cities is that they not only service the local community but those communities that might be within commuting distance. So, on that: from Colac through to Birregurra and Moriac—all of those smaller communities that are on the train line—you have three services. The services do not get you into town at the times that you need to get into town. Tell me what impact it has when those sorts of decisions are made. The timetable, for example, was changed very recently. Can you also tell me why we have such a block here because it seems to me that a couple more services on that line would be transformative in terms of the opportunities for people living in some of those communities.

Ms Carbines : You are absolutely right. Public transport in urban Geelong is pretty good, but the further you get from urban Geelong to our outlying centres, it is poor. The fact that we only have three train services a day from Colac coming into Geelong means that our region is heavily car dependent, because the trains are at odd times and they do not suit university classes, medical appointments or employment start or finish times. It means that our people do not have an option, really, but to use their cars, which obviously has serious ramifications in relation to congestion, road safety and the environment. We are keen to see our people use public transport and we know our people want to use public transport. So we are keen to see the state government increase the services from Warrnambool, through to Colac and onto Geelong by at least one extra service a day, supplemented by a bus. We feel that there needs to be a minimum of five services a day. Without that, our people are not being given the opportunity to access the services in our regional capital city of Geelong that they want to access. So it is a critical issue. It is not getting the importance or the emphasis it needs to address it, unfortunately.

Senator DI NATALE: I have one more question—

CHAIR: I let you off earlier, going for a whack at a state government while we are here to talk about federal issues, but I will extend you the courtesy.

Senator DI NATALE: I was not whacking anybody, I just wanted to raise the issue. Again on transport, Professor den Hollander, you said that something as small as providing wi-fi on the train line between Geelong and Melbourne, given that many of your students are commuting, has been on your agenda for a number of years.

Prof. den Hollander : Four years.

Senator DI NATALE: How much progress have we made on that?

Prof. den Hollander : It is marginally better, but you still fall out. I had the amusement recently of bringing a deputy secretary down from the state government, who was doing something in the area. I said, 'Come on the train with me.' We got just outside of Spring Street and his phone dropped out. He said, 'Oh, my phone is not working'. We then had the whole carriage telling him where all of the dead spots were between Spring Street and Geelong station—and there are many. You cannot actually do business. I see it as a significant productivity deflator. The trains going to and from Melbourne in the morning and back at night are packed and you cannot really work in an efficient way. You certainly cannot run any kind of voice business or even work on your computer now. Some of the trains are slightly better, but it is simply not good enough for the connection between the world's No. 1 liveable city and one of the major regional cities of Australia. It has to be better. It is not that expensive; it just needs will.

Senator DI NATALE: I was in the UK recently. Why can't they put a wi-fi service on the train here?

Prof. den Hollander : Because the rail is looked after by The Australian Rail Track Corporation, the carriages are looked after by somebody else and the people who run V/Line look after passengers. So the IT gets dropped off and then goes back to the black hole which is now known as the NBN, while we wait for all of that to happen. This is not an NBN issue; this is a wi-fi issue. The university actually gave them a plan saying, 'This is how it could be done.' It needs will. Having said that, I do commend the government on the new regional rail line; I think it is better. It is much more efficient having 20-minute trains at peak times. The last little click on that is to get efficient, consistent connected wi-fi for the 75 kilometres to Geelong or—I agree with Elaine—we have got to get to Colac so that we get some of those trains coming and going. Interestingly, the university runs its own bus service between the train station, the waterfront and Waurn Ponds on a continuous loop, with a parking lot up on the hill that we rent, to enable our students to get where they need to go at 10-minute intervals.

Mr Simmonds : Could I just add to that. Senator, your question was in relation to education, but from a business perspective the problem is just as bad.

Prof. den Hollander : I meant from a business perspective. I meant for staff.

Senator DI NATALE: It is bad from a political perspective too. I spend a lot of time on that train, and it is a pain in the backside, I have to tell you. So I declare an interest myself.

CHAIR: You are a bit slow in declaring it!

Prof. den Hollander : I think it changes votes during the journey. People get really ratty and start to moan about whoever the government of the day is; they do not care. They just start to moan.

Senator DI NATALE: Do you think I should go and hand out some leaflets on the train, maybe?

Prof. den Hollander : You could. You would probably do well.

CHAIR: I tell you what: if I have this blank look on my face, sorry, because we just completed a public transport inquiry last year. We should not have gone to Melbourne; we should have come here.

Prof. den Hollander : My word, yes!

Senator BULLOCK: Mr Simmonds, in your submission you said:

… the CfG endorses the Geelong Region Innovation and Investment Fund, which provides support to firms seeking to grow as Geelong's economy undergoes significant structural change. However, ensuring this fund is also open to sectors and businesses creating jobs in the new economy and creative industries would be welcomed.

So what businesses have been shut out from this, and how would you need to change the criteria of the investment fund in order to ensure that those industries that need the funds can access them.

Mr Simmonds : I am greatly relieved that the mayor has left the table, because my chief executive, Rebecca Casson, who in fact wrote the submission, has joined us, and she would perhaps be best to answer that question.

Ms Casson : We are very interested and keen in terms of innovation and embracing new and disruptive technology. We want to see, perhaps, more of a focus on providing funding for a start-up ecosystem in our region, and at this stage the GRIIF does not really allow for those sorts of aspects.

Senator BULLOCK: So they are not throwing money at start-ups? Is that what you are saying? Is it the fact that it is a start-up or the nature of the industry that disqualifies it?

Ms Casson : Possibly a bit of both, actually. We have some evidence from our members. We are a membership based organisation, and our members stretch across the breadth of industry, both by sector and by size. So we have some evidence from our members who perhaps have some opportunities; they put forward submissions to the GRIIF and were not successful, but that particular submission or application would have provided many jobs to our region.

Senator BULLOCK: I presume that they are not just going to throw money at anybody; they are going to have criteria.

Ms Casson : Absolutely.

Senator BULLOCK: And these applications must have failed those criteria. How could you restructure the criteria so that they are still meaningful and ensure that money is not going to be squandered?

Ms Casson : Probably I would take that into two parts. Clearly, given the change in manufacturing in Geelong, there needs to be a focus on manufacturing, new manufacturing and new technology. That is very clear, and we are not saying that that should not be a focus. What we are saying is that Geelong is transforming and those particular sectors that once were are now not going to be as prominent in the future, and therefore there needs to be a look at how we actually fund new opportunities and provide new innovation.

We were talking about assistive technology earlier. One of our members from the committee has brought forward an idea about assistive technology, and there is now a collective group of organisations, including Barwon Health, the Transport Accident Commission and the NDIA, working on that. But there also needs to be a connection in terms of start-ups. If there are ideas coming through then really we would like to see them. One of our members, Nick Stanley, who is the CEO of Sky Software, talks about 'Silicon Bay'. We were with him most recently on a visit to the Collision conference in the US to look at the start-up economy there, and we have much to learn from what is happening over in the US.

Senator BULLOCK: Thank you for that answer. Mr Simmonds, I promise not to tell anybody that you said that you are happy that the mayor had left!

Senator LINES: It will be in the Hansard!

Senator MUIR: I have quite a few questions, so forgive me if I bounce around a little bit. I will start with the NBN, the wi-fi on the train we were speaking about earlier on. Do you think it is more important to receive funding or infrastructure based on your current population, on current demand for services or on potential future growth in demand for services?

Prof. den Hollander : Good question. The university belongs to AARNet, and AARNet is a very, very powerful system, and we have been trying to connect the schools. One of the things I think we could start to look at, with the collective infrastructure we all own, is sharing it and how you move it between state and federal bodies. All the public schools, the 40,000 students, belong to the state system in Victoria. We of course are Commonwealth, where universities are funded. To connect those schools into our AARNet should be nothing. It is a $3 million ask. Who pays, why they pay, how we cross over between what is funded by the state and what is funded by the Commonwealth seems to cause quite a lot of bogging down. It is my view that we could have connected all of those students and all of those schools for $3 million, which would have saved a lot of money compared to waiting for the NBN or what they are doing at the moment, where individual schools are paying small commercial providers a lot of money for not very good—

CHAIR: Three million dollars? Is that all?

Prof. den Hollander : It will cost $3 million for the Geelong schools. It is all of the schools, including the three private ones and all the public ones. The private ones have gone ahead and done it anyway, so the most advantaged schools are advantaged and the least advantaged schools are not advantaged. We need to get over the barriers between us.

So, Senator, that is a long answer to say that often there is the infrastructure; it is how you share that infrastructure—and increasingly. That is my view. The university shares all of its infrastructure with anybody in the town, mostly for nothing because that is part of who we are. Why would you make the state—or, in your case, the federal government—pay twice? That is the first answer.

The second one is we do need to have bigger bandwidth. We need to think about 2030 and that, in 2030, it is going to be a mostly mobile generation. It is going to be machine run. Everyone will do everything on their phone, not on a computer. How are we going to enable people to do that, wherever they are in the world? We probably need to speed all of that up quite quickly now. Having said that, I think the market will deal with it in some cases, if we can get some of the infrastructure in place—wi-fi towers and the like.

Senator MUIR: With that infrastructure development, like getting the extra wi-fi and eradicating the black spots that run between Spring Street and here, do you think that would encourage more people to look outside the CBD for employment opportunities and push them into the regions?

Prof. den Hollander : Absolutely. As an example, Warnambool an interesting city. We have a campus there. The population there is not growing, and one of the reasons it is not growing is the fact that they have very, very low connectivity. It is another place where the university is connecting schools to the AARNet we have in Warnambool, with exactly the same point: to try and keep people in school. Children are on games machines at home. They get to school and their screens are pixelated because the bandwidth is low or it is just bad, whoever their private provider is. We need to lift that so that the quality of what you can give students at school is the quality of the cloud learning kind that you get at a university. Why wouldn't we give that to our very early learners? I think that is something that it would be very useful for you to comment on. Perhaps we might do a further submission on that, if you wish, just around student attainment in regional towns—

CHAIR: I think you should, Professor.

Senator MUIR: Yes.

Prof. den Hollander : and connectivity to enable them to stay at school.

Mr Simmonds : I have a further direct comment. The developers of one of our major developments at Armstrong Creek, called Warralily, in a conversation in the last 10 days said to me that, because they have broadband connected within their development, as all the new developments are, there is direct evidence that home businesses are starting up within that community—

Prof. den Hollander : Because they can get connected.

Mr Simmonds : because they have the right connections.

Prof. den Hollander : Everybody has to be connected. We are all connected here. Can you imagine not being connected? Why do we expect some people to live like that?

CHAIR: I would like not to be, sometimes!

Senator MUIR: Yes, there are some black spot areas between home and Canberra which I really appreciate! If you could make another submission, in relation to that, because that is probably a good line of questioning that we could go down but we are very limited for time today.

Prof. den Hollander : Yes.

Senator MUIR: Like I promised at the beginning, I am going to bounce to another area now. In light of my colleague Senator Di Natale getting into trouble for pointing out state issues earlier on, I might point out a federal one! They are freezing the indexation of financial assistance grants. I am trying not to make this very political, so perhaps I will keep it short—

CHAIR: No, you can ask them; it is a big item.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: You're under parliamentary privilege.

Senator MUIR: Okay; on that note, I will. As to the freeze on the financial assistance grants, which has been mentioned in submission 30 I think, how is that affecting the greater Geelong region, and what ongoing effects will that have?

CHAIR: Don't hold back!

Ms Carbines : It is certainly affecting our councils very much. The councils rely on those financial assistance grants from the federal government as part of their forward revenue, and to have those frozen has dramatically affected our council's revenue streams now and will into the future. If I can match that by talking about the new state government policy in relation to rate-capping, that further reduces the capacity for our councils to have a sufficient revenue base. Let us also remember that the federal government requires matching funding, usually, for most of the infrastructure investment projects such as the National Stronger Regions Fund. So the capacity for our councils to actually provide the matching funding—which you have to have in the bank before you lodge your application—is severely compromised. So it is going to have a dramatic impact on infrastructure capacity, not just in our region but across the nation.

Senator MUIR: And that infrastructure is employment-creating infrastructure?

Ms Carbines : Absolutely.

Senator MUIR: Just for the listeners out there who might not be able to join the dots, does the freeze in the financial assistance grants put pressure on councils to raise rates or put extra costs on other services?

Ms Carbines : It might have, except that our state government has introduced a rate-capping policy. So there has been a double whammy on our councils, because you have the freezing of the financial assistance grants from the Commonwealth and the states introducing rate-capping. So there is a double whammy affecting Victorian councils—as I am sure you are aware.

Senator MUIR: Absolutely I am; I just wanted to give you that opportunity to put it on the record!

Ms Casson : I would also add that there is some evidence from other countries that few countries have explicit second-city policies. Given the fact that Australia does not really have a second-city policy developed, there could be an opportunity to implement some of that financial assistance grant mechanism in a bipartisan way. So, for us, the absence of a clear national second-city policy has created a range of challenges. That is exacerbated by the financial assistance grant situation. The challenges include a lack of coordination and limited resources in that regard. From the Committee for Geelong's perspective, that has meant that local government has been forced into some short-term and uncoordinated approaches in many respects—and that is not a criticism of council; it is just the way that things are as a result of the national policy scene. That does mean that they are limited in terms of time, capacity and money to develop those solutions that we all seek from a local government perspective. So it is very clear to us that local governments cannot handle the problems of our city in this regard on their own, or even in collaboration with the private sector, which many of our members are, and we work very collaboratively across the political spectrum as well. But we do need a systemic approach which is bipartisan. Some countries are starting to develop more explicit second-city policies. In relation to the funding and the grant mechanism, we have an opportunity for Australia to lead the way. If there were an opportunity for a formal recommendation to be made to implement that second-city planning policy for our nation, using the criteria that are detailed in our submission, that could maximise the future economic benefits and the financial assistance grant aspect will perhaps be minimised in that regard because there would be a specific policy aspect to it.

Senator MUIR: The inquiry being on regional capitals, would you accept a slight name change from 'second-city' to 'regional capitals' policy?

Ms Casson : In Geelong—and of course we would say this, wouldn't we—we have looked at something called the 'regiopolis criteria', which really differentiates, for example, Geelong from Bendigo or Ballarat. So, for us, a regiopolis would be a city that would have a university, a port, an airport, and a stream of health and education at the level that we have in Geelong, which, clearly, other places like, for example, Colac, Ballarat or Bendigo do not have at the same level as the City of Greater Geelong does. If you were to refer, as an example, to Newcastle and Wollongong, those, for us, would be the stream of second cities that we would be describing specifically in our submission.

CHAIR: I take it you would probably support a recommendation that we only have two tiers of government now?

Ms Casson : That would be for you to decide. I suspect—

CHAIR: Don't start me!

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Can I just get you to clarify that. With the financial assistance grants, apart from the freezing on indexation, in your submission you make very clear points about them not being necessarily an efficient way of financing a jurisdiction such as yours.

Ms Casson : We have not specifically talked about the financial assistance grants but more about the fact that if we can elevate it to a strategic policy level, if there was a bipartisan agreement that there was a specific second city policy for Australia that covered aspects around financial assistance—

Senator WHISH-WILSON: What do you mean by 'bipartisan'?

Ms Casson : I mean that, as government changes, it is not at the wax and wane of governmental changes. So if there was a bipartisan—

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Do you mean tripartisan?

Ms Casson : Lots of parties! Multiparty—so that everybody would agree at whatever level of government. It is not just national; it is at a state level, and the states should have second city policies as well. There is evidence globally to suggest that those nations that invest more heavily in their second-tier cities have fared better in the global financial crisis. Frankly, Australia cannot afford to wait for this type of policy to be instigated. Australia does have an opportunity to lead the way.

CHAIR: Senator Muir?

Senator MUIR: I have a big list, so I will have to put some of them on notice. In everything you just said you would strongly support the federal government looking at making a second city policy for Australia?

Ms Casson : Yes.

Prof. den Hollander : Except that you would have to define what a second city was. Being Australians, we do not like coming second. My concern with a second city is how you make the difference between us and Ballarat. One of the things in regional Victoria is that we have to get on, so that is my only concern in all of this.

In China they use tier 2. Wuhan is a partner of Deakin and is a tier 2 city. But there a tier 2 city is eight million people, which is more than Victoria, so it is a slightly different thing. I wonder that we would not start to argue amongst each other as to who was a second city. What I liked about what you are doing with regional cities is that these are proud pillars of communities that have conurbations. So, while I do not disagree, I think we need to be careful about terminology. That is the only thing. We must take care on that. We get on extraordinarily well with Ballarat and Bendigo. I would not like us to be looking down at them, if I could put it that way.

Senator MUIR: I will do the next question and put the rest on notice. On a different area, I did notice you were speaking about the Geelong Region Plan earlier on, which is focusing on a population growth of 300,000 to 500,000 over a very short period of time, which is really good. Early on we spoke about the TAC and the NDIA all moving in here, which is positive. But there is one negative that is going to happen in Geelong very soon—and that is automotive manufacturing is going to stop. It is predicted that Victoria could lose 100,000 jobs, hopefully not all in the Geelong area. Is there scope, that you are aware of, to diversify the skill set of those employees into other areas? I am aware that the TAC and the NDIA coming here has created an insurance industry, but that skill set does not match the skill set that is going to go when automotive manufacturing leaves.

Ms Carbines : That is right. Ford will be closing next year. However, it will be keeping its research arm open, which is some 500 jobs, so it is important to have on the record that Ford is not completely walking out the door in Geelong.

There is a lot of work being done in relation to identifying future job opportunities for our retrenched workers both from Ford and also Alcoa. The state has set up a workforce development centre that is a one stop shop for retrenched workers to look at opportunities to retrain in the areas that are employment growth sectors in our region, such as health and education, aged-care service provision, and many of the workers are taking up those opportunities to retrain.

But there are opportunities to use their manufacturing skills both now and into the future. Deakin is investing very heavily in advanced manufacturing and we do have a ready workforce to learn new skills and build on the skills that they already have to be able to avail themselves of the jobs that will come out of that. We are bidding very heavily for a slice of the LAND 400 Defence contract to come to Geelong. We see that as an important opportunity to employ our highly skilled manufacturing workers as they lose their employment options at their current workplaces such as Ford and more recently, last year, Alcoa. So there are opportunities but we need to make sure that they are given appropriate training opportunities to upskill to avail themselves of those advanced manufacturing jobs into the future.

CHAIR: How many jobs have been lost through Alcoa? And how many will be lost because of Ford?

Ms Carbines : With Alcoa between 800 and 900 jobs went last year. They were direct jobs. But there were also 110 supply companies for Alcoa, so the number of indirect job losses coming out of the closure of Alcoa was very large as well—all those businesses supplying the Point Henry smelter. With Ford next year there will be about 500 jobs lost when the plant closes, but the research arm is being kept. But they are not the only jobs that have been lost in Geelong in recent years. It is very easy to get to over 2,000 direct jobs having been lost from our economy in the last couple of years. We had the Qantas heavy maintenance fleet that used to operate out of Avalon. Six hundred jobs went there in the last 18 months. Target Australia sacked 250 people without notice. We have had the closure of other smaller industries around the region. So we have had between 2,000 and 3,000 direct jobs go. Then the multiplier effect from the supply chain companies is substantial.

CHAIR: That is what we need to understand. It is great to hear the positive stuff but when you hear about those jobs that are no longer there—

Ms Carbines : Yes, there are challenges.

CHAIR: Do the people stay in town—do we know—or do they move out?

Ms Carbines : We have lost a lot of people, particularly the Qantas heavy maintenance fleet workers. They have had to relocate. Some of the Alcoa workers have relocated to find employment. But many have stayed, and they are the people who are coming through the workforce development centre, which has had over 400 retrenched workers register with it. The majority stay but some have to leave to chase employment options.

Prof. den Hollander : You could talk to Carbon Revolution as well. They have 120 people, mostly Ford, Alcoa and Qantas engineering reskilled workers now working in very high-end carbon fibre wheels, which mostly go onto the export market to the United States. They have a very big contract with Ford now. All Ford cars will have these uber carbon fibre wheels. They are making 50,000 a year. Their need is for those kinds of workers, who they reskill very quickly, often with us, in how to use carbon fibre. I think that that is a success. What we need is more of those kinds of companies. ManuFuture Geelong—not to push it too hard in our submission—is to enable Quickstep, for example, to bring in their whole automotive division, which in in Germany, to Waurn Ponds campus. They are located right next door to Carbon Revolution, doing the same thing: they will bring, hopefully, some of those workers onto campus—because they are very skilled; they just need to be reskilled in an additive rather than in the kinds of manufacturing they have been doing. But it is small shoots—small green shoots that need to be nurtured, I think.

CHAIR: I want to know from everyone here in front of us—you are a significant part of Geelong—what role does the Commonwealth play? I am an ex-truckie and I can find you all the excuses why no-one wants to come here because they do not want to pay for the extra fuel for transport. What role could the Commonwealth play in attracting businesses to go down to Geelong? Or do we just have to rely on the goodwill of businesses to say, 'Jeez, we want to help out Geelong'?

Prof. den Hollander : I think you can do lots. The research and the R&D tax which is being stopped—some of those things which often enabled countries to get their start. I think we have to acknowledge that we have a very expensive standard of living, which gives you a barrier against the competition. But, to use a couple of the examples of businesses that I have seen, they got very smart with their business. They take costs out of their business and keep highly skilled people. That seems to be cocktail that is beginning to work. The Commonwealth does need to enable but you have to be careful. Where is the balance between just propping the business up, as seems to have happened with automotive, and enabling the business to get a good start? Certainly with Quickstep and Carbon Revolution they have had enablement but now they are standing on their own two feet, and time will tell.

Mr Bettess : The other area is infrastructure funding. There was mention before of the connectivity to Melbourne, particularly with public transport and roads, and we also had a discussion on the national broadband. I think that all of that comes together where the Commonwealth can play a very big role in supporting infrastructure that supports the development of centres such as Geelong.

Mr Simmonds : My take on your question is that Australia as a community has to decide whether it wants to be continually focused around the eastern capital cities access or whether they believe that there is a real need to continue to encourage and foster alternative places to live that can support those metropolises but also feed off them. The Committee for Geelong would challenge the Commonwealth to come up with a true policy that says, 'We value these regional cities', whether that involves just the Geelong size—and Wollongong and Newcastle—or whether it is the broader scope that the professor is talking about.

CHAIR: Have you done that?

Senator WHISH-WILSON: That is why we are here.

Mr Simmonds : That is why we are here. Yes, we do try to have the dialogue. I mentioned before about Austrade. But why can't, for example, Geelong be known as the place where Australia encourages overseas manufacturing industries to locate because of our location, because of the education at all levels, because of the health that we can provide, because of the connectivity through road and rail et cetera. Rather than their getting sucked up into Melbourne and places like that and people having different lifestyles, having to travel a large distance, we can provide a real environment for those types of industries to establish, just as the professor has done at the manufacturing areas out at Deakin. It is that type of challenge that we as a community would set to the Commonwealth. You can help us set some goals. As a community we are up for that challenge. You can see from the people here today that we have a real passion for our community and a real desire to help it succeed. It is those types of things that can happen. Sometimes, also, getting the areas of government to talk to each other is fairly difficult.


Mr Simmonds : Well, for example—

CHAIR: Sorry.

Mr Simmonds : I will give you an example that is happening at the moment: the co-location of the NDIA with the WorkSafe headquarters. I do not know whether it is best that they are all in one building or not but my understanding is they cannot even make up their mind whether they want to co-locate. At the moment in Geelong across the road from Barwon Health is the old jail, where there is defence training. It would be great for Barwon Health to have that, but how does Geelong as a community manage to talk to the state government and the federal government to ask them to move their defence thing so that Barwon Health can have that land for future expansion? It is in that type of facilitation, that type of model, where a clear strategy and an authority or some such that was responsible for second-tier city or regional capital city development would be of great benefit. We would use it and it would greatly assist in making it work.

Ms Carbines : This will probably sound like heresy but I think there needs to be a lot more multipartisan commitment to some of our key sectors such as education and employment. It is really dispiriting to have government change and therefore the impact on our community of policy change when the government changes in relation to education, for example. The changes in funding to higher education have really seriously hurt Deakin University, which is fundamental to the future of our region. We need to have a much more cross-party commitment to key areas of our economy which really underpin places like regional Australia. It is difficult when we are dealing with huge changes in the area of focus of government when the government changes. We want things to extend beyond the political cycle. We have a 10-, 20- and 30-year vision, not a three-year vision, which seems to be what happens at the federal level.

Senator BULLOCK: We are obviously not a benevolent dictatorship; you change the government and you change the focus.

Ms Carbines : That is right, but it is very important. We must have a multipartisan commitment to education. We see education as the future of Australia.

Ms Casson : I concur with my colleague's comments in the sense that we believe that governments can help but the ultimate success or failure, particularly of Geelong, lies in the actions of the business and broader community. For us, a focus on the start-up economy and encouraging and empowering local businesses to use their initiative and come forward in terms of their innovation—but also, as Peter has mentioned, the investment in infrastructure that plays to our natural advantages. Many people do not realise that the port is one of our most underrated assets in our region. For example, federal investment in the new Murray Basin rail strategy and freight framework would be very important for us going forward. So we think that it is vital that governments assist, but we also think that that should empower our local community.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: That is interesting because I was going to ask a question. The Grattan Institute made a submission to this Senate committee, saying that government does not play any role in regional capital development or that other factors are responsible. How important are things like being close to the coast, being surrounded by agriculture and having the resources and the social capital to the development of a place like Geelong in terms of sea change and tree change shifts? Maybe for the G21 rather than just for Geelong, how important are those factors apart from the hard numbers, money and infrastructure?

Ms Carbines : They are certainly fundamental to the very liveability of our region. They are the very reasons why people want to live here and the reasons why we are going to see another 200,000 people come to live in this region over the next 30 or 40 years. The beautiful coastline, the lovely environment, the lack of congestion here, the great schools and the tertiary institutions such as Deakin and Gordon TAFE are all attractors to our city and confirm for us why we all live here. So they are very important. But, as Rebecca Casson said, the federal government can help us. We cannot do this on our own. We need the federal government's investment.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I think you have made that very clear and would like to commend the genius of the chair and secretariat for having the first hearing here in Geelong. I think it is fascinating as a case study that the federal government has been very focused on this town because of the transition in industries. Maybe for other regional capitals around the country it could provide a model for what the government can do to assist.

Mr Bettess : I want to add to those attributes that Geelong has, and that is with the tourism area. Tourism brings in about $640 million to the Geelong economy and employs around 4,000 people.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Bells Beach Classic.

Mr Bettess : Yes, all of those things. The tourism visits are of the order of five million per annum, and that comprises about 2.2 million for overnight travel and 2.7 million for day travel. It is a very significant industry, and that industry is built around those experiences.

Ms Casson : You mentioned agribusiness. In terms of agribusiness for our region and accessing those natural advantages, it is important that we do focus on those key areas and the next waves of prosperity, as have been highlighted in, for example, a Deloitte report that was produced about a year and a half ago. For us it is about policy planning and framework. Our region currently does not have an agribusiness plan that is coordinated, so the committee, working in partnership with the G21 agribusiness forum, is starting to look at that work now. For us it is about how we develop that framework and then how we seek assistance from the federal government and other levels of government to make sure that we access fully and maximise those assets that we have in terms of our natural advantages.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: This is a serious question. In terms of a social capital, one thing that is unique about you as a regional capital in your group is that you are the only one with your own football team in the AFL. How important is your football team to the social capital in this town? I ask this as a senator who laments that his football-mad state does not have a football team in the AFL. Is it really important? We have this debate all the time about whether we should have our own AFL team because of our identity as a state.

Prof. den Hollander : I will talk as the university. We have no trouble attracting people to work in Geelong—academics and professional staff particularly. In fact, a number of our staff will only work from the Geelong campus that they can live on down at Point Lonsdale. Pretty much the whole of the medical profession lives down there; you wouldn't want a tsunami or anything because it would certainly stop Deakin in its tracks! So we have no trouble attracting people. There are three things that attract them. First is good jobs in a great university that has very good access to water. Second is the cultural capital, and I would put the Geelong Performing Arts Centre slightly ahead of the football club in terms of its reach. The number of people who come and use the Geelong Performing Arts Centre in a year is much more than the football club. The football club, however, is the beating heart. Performing arts and football together—sports, arts and culture—are absolutely the fundamental basis of regional cities. Everyone has their footy team. The footy team plays junior league, and you end up at Simonds Stadium on a weekend. Our stadium, of course is very small; it only fits 20,000. It probably needs to be bigger. Our Geelong Performing Arts Centre is slowly expanding alongside some of the other things we do. You cannot underestimate social capital. If we remove the football club and the social capital, the university will not prevail, because our students will have nothing to do and our staff will go to places that are more interesting. University cities having everything matters in that regard. I think it must be a very significant part of what you are going to recommend about how Australia looks after its regional cities from that perspective.

Ms Casson : I would, add as an outsider coming into Geelong a few years ago, that for me having the football club was like having Manchester United on my doorstep. I could not believe how much the people of Geelong were behind the team and the club. I think that sometimes Geelong as a community forgets how important the football club is from an international perspective. Mr Simmonds and I were on a trade mission that the committee managed earlier on this year and were over in the USA, and there were many people over there that told us that they watched Geelong Football Club on SBS and were huge fans. For us as a community, we should remember that the football club, as the professor has said, does provide that beating heart for our community but also provides a global context and global lynchpin for those people who are looking at our region.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Great. I will put a question on notice about funding restrictions, particularly in accessing private capital from banks at a council level. I will put a question on notice on what kind of restrictions you have, because I think that is something we did not have time to get into.

CHAIR: I thank you all. We are taking this very seriously. It was Senator Whish-Wilson's request for an inquiry, and I have absolutely no problem supporting it. It is just a shame that there are no government senators who thought it was important enough to come to Geelong, but we do appreciate your evidence. Thank you very much. We wish you all the very best. You have given us a lot to ponder.

Proceedings suspended from 12:33 to 13:21