Our AGM was held at the Rockhampton Golf Driving Range on 14th September.
We had all the best of intentions about getting a game of mini-golf in – but everyone was too busy talking! Perhaps next time…
Thank you for the opportunity to report on the ongoing work that the Chamber of Commerce has either been directly involved in, or been able to influence, to policymakers or decision makers over the previous 12 months, along with the services and support provided to you, our members.
First of all, I am very pleased to report that, since the Chamber reintroduced fees after the year of free membership, our member base has grown to 127. This is about 50% above the level at which it had sat for some years prior to Covid and so indicates that the Chamber is being recognised for the role it plays within the business community in Rockhampton and Livingstone. But for me there is an anomaly hanging over this otherwise happy development, to which I will return later.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to dominate the news. As I think all of you will have realised, our part of the world has been exceptionally fortunate in avoiding most of the restrictions on business life that have been experienced elsewhere.
That is not to underestimate the impact on the operations of recreation and hospitality providers when severe occupancy limits were in place. The key issue now is nationally consistent rules for returning to life as normal.
This is reinforced to me every Friday, when, with other regional Chambers, I participate in the Zoom meetings conducted by the Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QCCI). The stories emanating from places such as Cairns, Townsville and the Sunshine Coast are little else than horrific. But they pale in contrast to the last weeks and months, when I hear about the effect border closures have had on the Gold Coast economy. The closures have, in general, kept Queensland free of Covid. But the business and personal costs are staggering.
So, where does that leave Capricornia? Well, we have been fortunate as I have pointed out and also because of the number of major projects under way or in final planning stages. Procurement for these projects contribute to supply chain benefits and local employment and the Chamber has been active in supporting them.
However even that good news comes with some caveats. Let me point out two:
- Procurement packages must be tailored, and readily understandable, to ensure local suppliers get a fair crack. This issue is high on CCIQ’s and our agenda and I have raised the issue directly with Minister for Small Business Di Farmer and at the recent State Government Roadshow.
- There is some risk that reliance on the next major project creates a “cargo cult” mentality. Major projects, particularly for critical infrastructure, are vital. But ongoing attention to the business environment, such as taxes and regulation, is equally if not more important as the effects are wider spread and longer lasting.
That’s why this Chamber will continue to advocate for policy measures to address weaknesses in the business environment – but as above, we need to hear from you at the micro, business, level to do this most effectively.
And that brings me to the anomaly I mentioned earlier and which I wish to highlight. This is, that the Chamber committee hardly ever hears from members about issues you’d like us to address. These could be individual – for example any problems with Council decisions – or about the business environment more broadly. Probably the single issue that the Chamber continues to lobby on, along with project procurement, is payroll tax and this is obviously one that is shared throughout the State. But surely you have identified others? We need to hear from you! As I’ve pointed out in the past, we do pursue many of these in concert with other Chambers and through CCIQ, which has more privileged access to the Government and Opposition in its lobbying. The Chamber’s affiliation with CCIQ means you get the benefits of being part of structured lobbying on business policy issues.
One other way in which the Chamber is making its mark is through support for the series of business lunches that have been organised by Peter Lynch, who many of you will know. Several of these have also been supported by the Catholic Diocese, which may seem a bit strange. However, these events have presented as extremely useful business networking opportunities, against a backdrop of greater collaboration between the various economic and business development organisations in Capricornia. As you will have seen, one concrete demonstration of this collaboration is the Best in Business Awards, being jointly organised and hosted by the Chamber and Capricorn Enterprise.
We are now about to go into the process for appointing or reappointing committee members, and there is some good news here in that we have nominations from 3 people who wish to join our committee, which will ease the burden on the current committee to carry out our functions.
Can I ask you join me in thanking the other members of the committee. First, I can advise that Warren Hale stood down from the Committee a couple of months ago and I’d like to recognise Warren for the energy he brought to a couple of projects: updating our Constitution and researching models for taking on sponsors. We haven’t yet decided on this latter issue, but Warren’s work was instrumental in setting us up to do it.
Second, Kim Moss has also resigned from the committee for family reasons. I’d like to thank Kim, who took over event organisation for the Chamber, never the easiest of roles, but we’ve had a good year of meetings once we were able to do it in person again. Thanks Kim.
Of course I also thank Geoff Lee, Jason Foss, and Angela Olsen for their continued dedicated work over the last year.
On the basis of nominations received, we will be shifting some roles around a bit to take account of years in the job and other pressures that affect our availability, but all in the name of providing you with the best service we can.