This article is reproduced from The Advertiser, Friday 11 May.
SOUTH Australia is shedding its skin, revealing a new look – and attitude – to the world.
And it’s the Premier who has been peeling back the curtain during his week-long trade mission in London.
He has told expats living in the UK that South Australia is changing and many “may not recognise the state you left years ago”.
Encountering business and investment leaders with a vague understanding of our state, he has embarked on an awareness campaign to present SA as a progressive, innovative and livable alternative to other more well-known Australian regions.
It is a “new” South Australia worth spruiking, which happens to coincide with a new state leader, Mr Weatherill says.
“There has been a transformation in the South Australian mindset,” he said.
“There is a growing confidence in the South Australian future which is some- thing that’s changed.
“There’s this sense that we have overcome that `we can’t do things in Adelaide’ mentality.
“I think there’s an appetite for us to be thinking a little bit more positively about the future.”
By the end of the year, the Government will unveil a new international brand for the state which will aim to dispel the confusion about what and where South Australia is – a confusion which has led to Mr Weatherill being labelled the Premier of New South Wales at functions in both the UK and the US.
A new adviser in international engagement, appointed by Mr Weatherill this week, has been tasked with making more of the state’s wide expatriate network around the globe to attract investment, tourists and migrants.
“We’re ramping up our international effort,” Mr Weatherill said. “We have to be engaged in this competition for people, investment and for ideas on an international basis.
“We’re not bending ourselves out of shape, we’re saying this is who we are. We don’t want to turn South Australia into something it isn’t, but we just want people to know about it. We can’t keep South Australia a secret and expect people are going to express interest in coming here.”
Increasingly, the state has more to crow about – especially if you ask the Premier.
While the future had “felt precarious” in the past, there was now a “prospect of it getting really, really good”, Mr Weatherill told a group of young South Australians living abroad.
“There are things that used to be barriers that we just couldn’t do in Adelaide, but we can do them now,” he said.
“People used to make fun of the fact that we had a one-way freeway … we used to have an airport where you would get rained on when you walked on to the tarmac, we had a hospital that was a rabbit warren.
“Adelaide Oval is beautiful … (but) the view would have been that you can’t touch that because you’ll bugger it up.
“What’s more important is we have broken through (those barriers),” he said. A stocktake of Mr Weatherill’s week-long trip – his second overseas journey since becoming premier – shows more than 30 meetings with employers, investors, business leaders and govern- ment representatives.
Coups include securing commitments by major companies like Siemens and Nyrstar to invest further in South Australia.
And of course there was THAT dinner with Prince William and Kate and an invitation for them to visit South Australia – adding to the boost his personal profile has received while abroad.
Mr Weatherill’s pitch has focused on presenting South Australia as:
AN EMERGING mining, defence and advanced manufacturing hub
A PIONEER with an innovative culture
SITUATED close to the success of Asia but a safer bet for investment
A “CALM and civil” society, and
AN affordable place to live and raise a family.
Over breakfast one morning, the Premier told a room full of potential investors in South Australia that it was a place that “started with an idea”.
“We have always had this culture of new ideas,” he said.
“Adelaide’s been called a social incubator, big enough to be worthwhile but small enough to have access to decision-makers (and) we’ve got a bias for yes.” While the trade mission has resulted in some clear outcomes for the state, the Opposition has questioned the value of the taxpayer-funded trip.
Liberal Leader Isobel Redmond said the Government had had 10 years “to cultivate an image of this state”.
“It is an embarrassing reflection on his (Weatherill’s) Government’s inability to sell this state internationally and develop success stories that resonate overseas,” she said.
Her industry and trade spokesman, Steven Marshall, added that he thought the Government’s rebranding effort would not fix an international strategy that is in disarray.
“It has been widely reported that two of our eight overseas offices, for the last 12 months, haven’t even had any staff in them,” Mr Marshall said.
“The Government needs to get back to basics, sort out what our international strategy is, work out what they are doing with our overseas offices, work out what they are going to be doing to support exporters.”
Mr Weatherill has made it clear the Government is shifting direction from fixed international bases to a more flexible global network. By the end of the year SA’s new image will be established and the public will see if the change of face pays off.