Late last year two Melbourne Hub members, Nathan Dyer and Jake Puhl, jumped on a V/Line trip to Bendigo with the idea that they would get out of the city and create a “regional pop-up hub” for the day. Their spontaneous trip was part of an increasing global phenomenon of a “reverse commute”, where city dwellers make it out to regional areas for the day. Up until now, limited Wi-Fi infrastructure made that difficult, but in Victoria at least a recent announcement by Premier Denis Napthine for improved internet and mobile coverage in regional areas has changed that. Napthine said free Wi-Fi will be available to passengers on several key V/Line train services. He said the package would also be used to reduce mobile coverage blackspots across the state. Hub member and futurist Julian Waters-Lynch says the opportunity was there to re-invigorate innovation in small towns. “As yet co-working is really a city phenomenon and building up these pockets in regional areas is a way of making sure that young people don’t feel the need to leave these areas to act on innovation,” he says. “We’re hoping that more and more people will visit emerging communities and help build them up as centres of innovation.” Waters-Lynch says that the train journey itself could be used to hold moving hackathons with just better access to power sources needed to make it happen. There has already been some talk of holding a TedX on a train. “There’s something about moving that adds a whole new element to it,” he says. “Making TedX a journey is an interesting idea.” The other big benefit these regional areas offered entrepreneurs, in particular startups, is the lower cost of living compared to the city. “I’ve thought about whether small towns could host startups at a particular stage of their growth,” he says. “The idea is not to move startups out of the city, but give them a chance to experience something different – that can unleash a lot of creativity too,” says Waters-Lynch, who commutes between Clunes and Melbourne CBD. “For me, that switch evokes a different kind of thinking and I love what each setting brings,” he says. While Wi-Fi on V/Line trains is still a while away, there’s no stopping the entrepreneurs wanting to seize the opportunity and try out reverse-commuting right now. A second trip to the country has already been made by Hub members who caught a train to Bendigo, inspired by the original trip made by Dyer and Puhl. A third trip to Geelong was made today. Waters-Lynch says he is aiming to hold a hackathon in a regional town this year.
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine has announced a pilot program providing free Wi-Fi internet access in Melbourne’s CBD. The pilot program, run by the state government and Melbourne city council, is the first stage in a larger roll-out of public Wi-Fi across the state. The state government has also opened the tender process for the scheme, with expressions of interest open from March 12 until April 17, with contracts to be awarded in mid-2014. The program is designed to provide a consistent Wi-Fi experience around Melbourne’s CBD, boosting the quality of life for residents and visitors. Napthine says he also hopes the scheme will boost productivity and draw help to draw more entrepreneurs to the state. “As the first step, the initiative aims to pilot fast, reliable and free Wi-Fi services in central Melbourne, in and around publicly owned infrastructure, including public transport hubs and tourist attractions for the next three to five years. “These networks will be delivered in partnership between the Government, the City of Melbourne and the private sector. “We are encouraging innovative expressions of interest that will ensure a reliable, sustainable free service that is also filtered for prohibited and undesirable content. “All responses will be assessed on their commercial viability with strong preference given to proposals where there is no ongoing cost to government, beyond any potential initial investment to establish the infrastructure. “Government investment could include direct grants or in-kind contributions like advertising, sponsorship and priority access to public infrastructure and facilities.” This article first appeared on SmartCompany.
Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey has identified up to $130 billion in state and federal government assets that could be privatised in order to find new infrastructure investments. “We need to facilitate private-sector investment in infrastructure and in Australia in particular, because mining investment is coming off,” Hockey told Fairfax. “We've got to recycle precious capital – taxpayers’ capital. It's not a case of selling the family jewels, it's asking another member of the family to buy the jewels so that we can then go down the road and buy some more. “We're not selling assets particularly to reduce debt, we're selling assets to allow us to put money into other things that are going to build the economy of tomorrow.” Unemployment hits 6% Australia’s unemployment rate has hit 6%, its highest level since July 2003, with 3700 jobs lost in January, according to new Australian Bureau of Statistics figures. The figure shows 7100 full-time positions were cut, while 3400 were added, as the participation rate remained steady at 64.5%. Victoria, traditionally a manufacturing state, recorded an unemployment rate of 6.4% – its worst since January 2002, while Western Australia saw a seasonally adjusted jump in its unemployment rate from 4.6% to 5.1%. Tasmania recorded the worst unemployment rate at 7.6%, although this is down from 8% earlier this year. Victorian Premier hailed as a hero for $22 million SPC Ardmona pledge Victorian Premier Denis Napthine has announced it will chip in $22 million to refit SPC Ardmona’s food processing plant, with parent company Coca-Cola Amatil chipping in a further $78 million. The deal specifies at least 500 staff will have to be employed at the plant for a minimum three years, and the cash payment will be repaid by the company if it leaves Shepparton within the next five years. “This co-investment will deliver a bright future for SPC Ardmona. It is a great day for jobs in Shepparton and the Goulburn Valley, a great day for SPC Ardmona, a great day for our fruit growers and fruit industry and a fantastic day for Victoria,” Napthine says. Australian Workers Union state secretary Ben Davis praised the state Liberal government for the pledge. “Denis Napthine has done what Tony Abbott should have done, and there is a real lesson in this for the Abbott government – this is how you support businesses that are doing it tough,” Davis says. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 5319.8. The Aussie dollar is down to US89.9 cents.
THE NEWS WRAP: Victorian Premier goes to Canberra seeking assistance as Toyota pulls out of Australia2:32PM | Monday, 10 February
Toyota says it will stop making cars in Australia by the end of 2017, drawing the curtain on Australian car manufacturing and costing thousands of jobs. Victorian Premier Denis Napthine will travel to Canberra seeking a federal assistance package. About 2500 Victorian Toyota workers will lose their jobs, while thousands more jobs in the wider automotive industry are also at risk. Toyota blamed Australia’s high dollar, the high cost of manufacturing in Australia and low economies of scale for the decision to leave Australia. David Jones chairman and directors resign as part of “board renewal process” The chairman of upmarket department store David Jones and two directors have quit amidst concerns around corporate governance issues. David Jones said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange that chairman Peter Mason and director Leigh Clapham said they would resign within the next three months and director Steve Vamos said he was leave immediately as part of a “board renewal process”. Shareholders were concerned Vamos and Clapham bought shares in David Jones last year, approved by Mason, just days before the release of better-than-expected quarterly sales. The trades were investigated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which decided not to take any action. They were further angered when it was revealed rival Myer made a $3 billion merger proposal the day before the directors bought the shares. Regional airline Rex warns aviation sector in peril Regional airline Rex is warning the aviation sector will collapse without government support, after issuing a warning that pre-tax earnings for the first half of this financial year will be 40% lower than the same time last year. Rex blamed a large drop in business travel for the decline in revenue. "We implore the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development to take immediate and forceful efforts to fulfil his election commitments to regional aviation outlined in the Coalition's Policy for Aviation, as many regional carriers have little time left before they face the same fate as Brindabella," chief operating officer Garry Filmer said in a statement. Markets The Dow Jones Industrial Average is marginally higher at 15,801.79 points, while the Australian dollar is buying US89.5 cents.
The premiers of Victoria and South Australia, Denis Napthine and Jay Weatherill, are set to hold talks with Prime Minister Tony Abbott following the announcement by Holden it will end production in Australia by 2017. The decision by Holden’s parent company, General Motors, to end production in Australia will directly impact 2900 jobs over the next four years across Victoria and South Australia, with more than 30,000 jobs at risk nationally. “It's about the whole industrialisation of our economy, and what now needs to be put in place to replace what is a very significant element of the South Australian economy, indeed of the national economy,” Weatherill says. “I'll seize that opportunity to talk to Mr Abbott about the future of Toyota and how the federal government can work with the state government and Toyota and the entire automotive supply chain industry to secure the future of Toyota,” Napthine says. “I spoke to Mr Yasuda of Toyota last night. Obviously the government will be talking to Toyota… We want Toyota to continue. They are in a slightly different position to Holden – much more of their local production has been for export,” Abbott says. Bill Morrow to be named new NBN boss Vodafone chief executive Bill Morrow is set to be named as the new chief executive of the NBN Co., according to reports. The announcement is set to be made as Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull prepares to deliver a strategic review into the rollout, which identifies cost issues and flaws in Labor’s rollout of the project. Vodafone plays hardball on rents Mobile communications giant Vodafone is threatening to abandon stores as part of its hardball negotiating tactics with retail landlords, as the struggling telco attempts to renegotiate leases on its stores. “[They] verbally are refusing to pay the rent. For an enterprise of the calibre of Vodafone, this is cowboy behaviour, considering all the bad press Vodafone have had. They are playing hardball,” one landlord told Fairfax. “This request [to cut rents] is on the back of numerous store closures that have been performed in the last two years due to the significant losses that have been incurred from the impact of customers leaving. In conjunction with the above customer base loss there have been considerable revenue losses,” a leaked letter from the company to landlords reportedly states. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 5109.5. The Aussie dollar is down to US90.63 cents.
The Victorian state government has announced a new $500,000 grant for small businesses targeting China’s $190 billion e-commerce market. Under its Manufacturing Productivity Networks program, the state government will offer grants to small businesses in Victoria selling food and beverage products to China through the Alibaba e-commerce platform. "Increasingly, Chinese buyers are turning to e-commerce platforms like Alibaba to source their food products from safe and reliable suppliers, like Victoria," Victorian Premier Denis Napthine says. IBM to slash 1000 local jobs IT services giant IBM has announced plans to cut around 1000 jobs from its Australian subsidiary through a cost-cutting program called Project Mercury, which has previously seen jobs shipped to Singapore, Malaysia and Ireland. "Change is constant in the technology industry," the company says in a statement. "Given the competitive nature of our industry, we do not publicly discuss the details of staffing plans.” Electrolux to cut 544 jobs Whitegoods giant Electrolux has announced plans to close its factory in Orange, New South Wales, with around 544 jobs to be cut in the process. Electrolux Home Products Australia and New Zealand managing director John Brown says the factory, which makes around 1300 fridges and freezers each year under the Westinghouse and Kelvinator brands, is no longer competitive. The company's exhaustive investment study, announced earlier this year, concluded that Electrolux is able to manufacture refrigerators currently made here more cost effectively in other factories in Asia and Eastern Europe," Brown says. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is 15570.28. The Aussie dollar is up to US95.86 cents.
Confidence among builders in the troubled US housing sector and general business conditions in the world’s largest economy are up, according to two leading market indexes released overnight. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market index, which measures confidence among home builders, jumped to 52 in June from 48 in May, with a number over 50 meaning more builders see business conditions as favourable than poor. Meanwhile, the New York Fed's "Empire State" general business conditions index rose to 7.84 from -1.43 in May, where a reading over zero indicates expansion, although the report is not entirely positive. “Sentiment may be improving but actual output isn't improving. This report suggests manufacturing activity is sluggish and that we are seeing that in the US and the rest of the world,” says senior Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Michelle Meyer. AirAsia founder plans to retune the Australian insurance and hotel markets AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes has opened up a national headquarters for his Tune Group in Melbourne, with ambitious plans to expand into the no-frills accommodation and insurance markets. Fernandes has also announced plans to open his first Tune Hotel in Melbourne, where guests will be offered a low-cost hotel room for a budget price but will be charged extra for air conditioning, television, daily room cleaning and towels “Tune provides a whole new market that we don't perhaps provide for as well as we should in Melbourne and Victoria. I think it will significantly increase the number of people that travel and stay in Melbourne,” Victorian Premier Denis Napthine says. “We have a good brand and we have a bit of a captive market with the people who travel with us on travel insurance. Insurance is marketed in a very old-fashioned way. "I think people want choice and to tailor make their insurance a bit, depending upon their lifestyle,” Fernandes says. NAB boss expects Australia to avoid a recession National Australia Bank chief executive Cameron Clyne has revealed during an interview with The Australian he expects Australia to avoid a recession. “We have this national gloom hanging over us. When the unemployment figures come out, no one believes them but they are quite robust. They are real,” Clyne says. Clyne cited the reaction to a recent Goldman Sachs report showing Australia has a 20% chance of recession next year as another example of the “national gloom”, pointing out that in the US more attention would be paid to the 80% chance of avoiding recession. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.73% to 15,180.08. The Aussie dollar is down to US95.66 cents.
Old Taskmaster is going to start off this column by coining a new word for a fairly common phenomenon in our society.
The Victorian business community says the resignation of Ted Baillieu as premier may represent a good opportunity for the state government to be more open about its intentions with regard to any change in business policy.
Ted Baillieu has resigned as premier of Victoria, with Denis Napthine sworn in as his replacement overnight, amid mounting turmoil in the state government.