Debate needed for South Australian prosperity

Thursday, 23 June 2005

Is South Australia on target to achieve sustained economic and social prosperity?

A new book edited by leading University of Adelaide social researcher John Spoehr, and to be launched today (Thursday) by State Minister for Employment, Training and Further Education the Hon. Stephanie Key, will address this and other critical questions facing this State.

State of South Australia is the first and most comprehensive review of the myriad economic, social, cultural and environmental attributes that affect the shape, structure and policies of South Australia.

The book was devised two years ago by Associate Professor John Spoehr, Executive Director of the Australian Institute for Social Research which is based at the University of Adelaide, to counter a glaring lack of access to good, accessible research that was relevant to South Australian public policy.

Consequently, it now serves as a crucial companion to South Australia's Strategic Plan, released by the Rann Government in July 2004.

"It's the How-To manual that never came with South Australia's Strategic Plan," Associate Professor Spoehr says.

"The Strategic Plan is a valuable document for identifying worthy targets but it will require a lot more rigorous policy debate and activity to realise some of the plan's grander objectives, or to address policy shortcomings that are not adequately covered."

Associate Professor Spoehr is concerned by an alarming lack of debate about shaping public policy in the wake of the Strategic Plan's release - and that its key tenants have not been exposed to sufficient critique.

"The test of a democracy is robust political debate - and at present there is not enough in South Australia," he says.

State of South Australia is designed to fill this void - a reference journal that speaks equally to the media, students, bureaucrats, business leaders, academics and the general public. Associate Professor Spoehr said the 20 contributing writers focus on 16 areas of social, economic and cultural policy in the book with thorough analysis, researched data and forthright conclusions. Key findings include:

Economic Outlook - South Australia is enjoying a period of economic prosperity not seen since the immediate post-war economic boom but it must sustain strong growth to help reverse SA's declining share of national economic output. Securing the $6 billion Air Warfare Destroyer contract and the expansion of mining at Roxby Downs make a vital contribution to this challenge but more will be needed to counter the threat of key manufacturing facilities leaving for the low cost production zones now flourishing in China and India.

Employment - Despite a record low unemployment rate and strong employment growth policy makers must not lose sight of the need to reduce long-term unemployment, "underemployment" and "precarious" part-time and casual employment. SA must sustain significant growth in full-time employment to attract and retain a strong, skilled workforce in this state. Skill shortages arising from the ageing of the workforce threaten lower productivity and economic growth.

Indigenous Inequality - One of SA's greatest social policy challenges, with critical problems that are widespread and dramatic; life expectancy of 20 years less than non-Indigenous Australians, poor school retention rates and subsequent lack of education, chronic unemployment and associated social problems stemming from poverty, from crime and drug use to homelessness.

Population - Beyond the call for population growth is a critical need for SA to manage the impact of our increasing elderly population, and especially its impact on the workforce.

Health - The need for a radical overhaul of SA's health system, beyond simply focusing on illness, to the wellbeing of the whole community, and investing in the prevention of illness and injury.

Professor Spoehr and Wakefield Press have made a commitment to review and update State of South Australia every two years - for it to remain a critical and current independent assessment of elements that affect the State of South Australia. Between publications, fresh statistical date of relevance will also be available be posted regularly on the Australian Institute for Social Research website.

The book is being launched at the State of South Australia Conference, in the National Wine Centre, North Tce, Adelaide, from 9am to 12.30pm, today (Thursday June 23). Copies of the book will be available from leading booksellers for $29.95.


Contact Details

Associate Professor John Spoehr
Executive Director
Australian Workplace & Social Innovation Centre
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 3730
Mobile: 0418 805 594

Rosslyn Cox
Business and Development Manager
Don Dunstan Foundation
Business: +61 8 8313 6246
Mobile: 0422 953 971

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762