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Quid Pro Quo

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Right Honourable The Lord Mayor Ms Lisa Scaffidi

"Today it’s apparent we have bigger houses but smaller families. Pizza often reaches our home faster than ambulances may. More degrees are achieved at University, but yet seemingly in society there is less common sense. We have as a species touched the moon but yet all too often have no contact with our neighbours. The worst of all is people are meant to be loved, and machines are meant to be used, but quite apparently and all too commonly this situation is reversed. In this world how do we soar?"
Naomi Henn

I have had the great honour of serving as the Lord Mayor of the City of Perth now for six years and as I hope you can appreciate around the daily "ups and downs" of public office, the focus on significant capital expenditure projects for our City and more recently the very strategic discussions about local government reform I have had the most incredible journey that has enabled me to observe learn, enter and glimpse worlds that normally would not be mine to see.

I can think of no other role that permits such entry and cannot believe how little I am asked about such aspects of this role possibly because people do not consider a walk in my shoes in such a way or simply because they just cannot imagine the things in a Lord Mayors purview.

It’s not all pleasure and amusement, nor a life of indulgence though as the hours are long; the energy required to undertake the role must be limitless; the mind needs to be broad and the spirit flexible, a hide tough to handle and deal with the inevitable tests from our fourth estate and a heart large enough to envelop the world and its many needs plus your adversaries. As Morihei Ueshiba once wrote “once you envelop them, you will be able to guide them along the path indicated to you by heaven and earth.”

So if you can try and understand my world – which I can completely imagine would not be easy you will perhaps then understand my title for this presentation being “Quid Pro Quo”.

Perth is in such an interesting time and space right now.  Our city is forecasting strong population growth – suggesting our population will reach 3.5 million by 2050 and our economic forecasts despite the concerning daily costs of living are strong and sustainable.

Perth is recognized now as Australia’s 3rd largest corporate centre and our sphere of influence as a city and state is strong, possibly sometimes resented by our east coast but nonetheless recognized as powerful and abundant.  Perth is seen as a globally liveable city and a west coast gateway that has a great climate and an abundance of natural beauty.

We are world recognised as a leading energy city and certainly given the size and financial commitments to development projects around the extraction of these resources for a insatiably hungry and growing world a strong future via this sector is assured.

The competition from other world markets is mitigated by our relative proximity to China but our strong OH&S standards and our labour regime puts pressure on our international competitiveness which leads to the boom and bust cycles that occur economically as the world tackles supply and demand issues.

We realise as we experience these cycles that our city could cushion itself more against these cycles if we concurrently developed other industry sectors to create a legacy for our future via industries that could grow over time and ultimately be our saving grace when the currently abundant but ultimately finite resources are depleted.

So we look to science, education and medical research and potentially many other worthy sectors that can be the future proof planning we need.  Seizing these opportunities now is so vital in a competitive world where especially cities as the growing home to 75% of our population are busy in the branding stakes making their claim on a world for just as limited skilled labour and venture capital.

But where we fail miserably in my opinion is to explain the intricate connections and “the why” to the many people in our city and state to endeavour to through such educational dialogue give them the fuller understanding of why we need to be looking for opportunities and focusing on education and the important role of science and medicine beyond the projects per se and creating the links that allow them to appreciate that medical research for example means cures for terminal illnesses but also employment for future generations and business opportunities that could otherwise go offshore.   It is our story that needs to be explained and comprehended by more in our community.

My speech title as mentioned is Quid Pro Quo – and for those of you possibly in doubt the literal translation is means an exchange of goods or services, where one transfer is contingent upon the other. It can mean "a favour for a favour"; "give and take", "tit for tat", or "you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours."

The one thing I have learned in this role and taking it now to a more global perspective, is if we are serious in our relationship development with other countries we must not look like we are always on the take and only self- serving and seeking out what we want for ourselves without consideration of their needs.

I can refer directly here to our international global or sister city relationships generally and more specifically to our Chinese sister city relationships and their needs.

On a recent trip to China and being aware of the sensitivity of what I am about to speak on I seek your confidentiality, I realised we were up there seeking students to choose our universities over other competing destinations (nationally and internationally) and all too often referring to these cities as our markets!  This implied taking or sourcing of business.  But in seeking a student to choose Perth we are potentially creating relationships that will  provide so much more than an economic transaction and I state that the group I work with there, StudyPerth know that  very well but it became abundantly clear to me in other business meetings I had around this most recent trip that as with any relationship in life for it to work very well we can’t just take we must share and encourage each other to prosper so the relationship is mutually beneficial and rewarding.

I will use just one sister city our newest the City of Chengdu in the Sichuan Province of China as my example here.  Signed in 2010 we have already in two years seen a lot of students from this Province enrolling in our Universities and much business exchange occurring and the people of Chengdu are very aware of the sister city relationship with Perth and some tourism is emanating from Chengdu and there is a desire to connect on many levels. But look at it from this perspective how many Western Australians are serious about connecting with their sister cities and developing the connection strongly from this perspective?

Consider this, the city of Chengdu has a population of about 15 million it is the 4th largest city in China and the Sichuan province a population of 80.5 million. Can you not see the merit in creating these global partnerships as a great way to connect with other people in key parts of the world.  Strategically smart but to do so on a business level only is not enabling us to connect in such a full way as like any relationship when you feel comfortable there is a natural tendency to see it lead on to other opportunities our of trust and respect for each other.

When it works I can assure you the relationship flourishes and is deeply connected on many levels and is more meaningful.

The longer relationships we have had with cities like Kagoshima in S Japan - who we celebrate 40 years with next year.  The City receives visits from the regular school groups that come here and spend time doing English studies in our various language colleges and the students bare invariably accommodated around the greater city in home stay accommodation. They always pay an official visit and take the time to dress in kimono out of respect and always present a few small skits to demonstrate their English skills and then present a small local dance known as the Ohara Bushi.   Our other sister city Nanjing in the Jiangsu Province with equally as large populations have developed a significant relationship between their Drum Tower Hospital and our Royal Perth Hospital in medical research work of an Obstetrics nature via Professor John Newnham here and Madam Hu there. The work is great and given the separateness of the control groups perfect in so many ways and potentially the type of thing that can lead to Nobel Prize Awards.  Isn’t this the kind of ‘Quid Pro Quo’ you want to see more of in this world and specifically for your city?

Being a city that focuses on the soft cultural offerings in such international examples but on a local level in the small ways that make big differences we can be a city that stands loudly and proudly in an increasingly time poor world.

A city that reminds itself that the years will inevitably roll by and the population will grow, age and be reborn,  but a city that appreciates that despite its economic strength and its prime location it is the mindset and attitude of its people that can be the point of difference that takes it from being good to great.

Looking back at the powerful cities that existed of old – be they the amazing dynasties of China or the profound and lasting influence of the Roman Empire - we in the 21st century with the incredible technology that allows us to be smart and connected in ways that we could never have imagined can show the world that living a good life and being caring and considerate while achieving greatness for mankind universally is a pattern of living that is not only appropriate but right for how advanced we are or like to think we are as individuals today.

As our city brand truly evolves into its 200th anniversary of being – our bicentenary year in 2029 - I want us to be fully aware of and able to proudly recount our history and evolution but be so acutely aware of our future vision and story that we more capably enjoy the now and therefore have the luxury of comfort to empower us to be able to do so. This means we educate our youth as to the core values that drive us and the spirit of giving and philanthropy that highlights who we are as a society and therefore inspire others through our actions and contribute to the world for the relatively short time we are here like the Romans did!

Our vital actions as a city will highlight and deepen the value of our true relationships and position us more than any marketing strategy ever could.

My vision for our City is already starting to become reality.  I am very proud of the immense changes and the vast growth occurring in our capital city.  Less talk and more action – my first election slogan - across all sectors is enabling us to create a capital city that reflects more of who we are right now and where we intend to be in this new era.

Our success on the back of a number of strong industry sectors is also enabling us to focus on diversity and creativity that will enhance our city even further.

We are living through and experiencing and it’s fair to say enduring some pretty big changes for our city right now that are taking us from where we were a few years ago being written off as a branch office economy to becoming a city of style and substance on the national and international stage.

The City of Perth is very acutely aware of its role as a gateway point, an influencer and medium for investment attraction.   Certainly during my tenure as Lord Mayor I have been mindful every day of using the position at all times to promote Perth and WA as a great place to live and work in or from – knowing our position on the international stage is highlighted via the abundance of resources to our north but also realising as a proud West Australian we need not be limited or defined by it too as we really stand for so much more than just that.

The unique style or physical character of any great city is the culmination of years of work in bringing together good planning, robust and highly prioritised capital expenditure to create much needed infrastructure that is also equally supported and backed up by solid private investment.  We recognise the importance of cleanliness, safety and our public spaces, public art and decorative lighting, street paving and indeed road upgrades as a City service delivering a high class city to our stakeholders each and every day.  BUT amongst all that and as a part of any organisation that cares is the importance of our people, our culture the provision of good customer service.  That comes from our people and depends on their ATTITUDE to work, life and themselves.

At this time in our amazing growth it is going to be a can do attitude and a strong work ethic focussing on productivity that will make the difference we need.  In the news right now there is a lot of talk about the high costs being responsible for the deferral of some projects. The recent loss of our AAA credit rating has put the brakes on some plans for various infrastructure.

Sadly, I don’t think we should be halting a lot of what was proposed and believe again it is how we communicate to our community that can be a greater influence and steadying force right now destiny and forge a strong path for our country. President Obama has spoken previously about “being the change we want to be.”

I’ve coined a phrase that I use a lot - Brand Australia? “Brand” is the sum total of our parts and generally what we stand for and how our country or our city or even just ourselves as individuals are represented, perceived or considered.

Be it a National brand, a city brand, a corporate or even a personal Brand I think this is actually a great topic for us in these types of forums to all think about and use more widely right now.

While we enjoy living and being in a country that we believe is highly regarded and it certainly is – we need to remind ourselves that we need to be out there promoting and leveraging all opportunities for ourselves with a much hungrier and welcoming, positive approach. Certainly I acknowledge that Australia is seen as a great place to do business in and from and our people are generally highly regarded for their great work ethics, but in a globally competitive environment that is impacted by costs and other real economic pressures we have to now be seen to be giving value for the comparatively high dollars charged

We should not ever think that business opportunities that come our way would simply WANT or CHOOSE to be here as it is increasingly evident with increasing costs and the cost of labour that there are many other alternatives, so we need to be very conscious of value-adding and good service and start to talk about that to businesses generally and to our own employees in our respective organisations.

I truly believe we have so much going for us now in Australia but it is these smaller elements that could be the transformational imperatives we need to empower our people and in so doing we further empower economies even further and these things will make our city even more liveable.

Often our service ethic or lack thereof, of one, is too easily written off as being due to the fact we are not a tipping society.  But hang on a minute, we are paying top and in many cases above Award rates to staff... so they should not be reliant on having to go the extra mile to make up the difference from a smaller hourly rate.  Our people are already being paid well and so we the paying customer should be automatically receiving good service and consideration while guests in a venue or customers of any business that charges for its services. Am I not talking value for money?  And... let’s face it we know we are paying top dollar for everything at home right now... so let’s not accept mediocre service or goods and let’s start being on the front foot in regards to what we expect and in what we can also provide ourselves as part of this value chain.

It is attention to detail, proactivity and attitude which we MUST address as a city and as a nation if we are each truly to be nations of exemplary and enviably world liveable cities and so I rhetorically ask you, what is “Brand Australia”, “Brand Perth”?

Just as a corporate brand influences a company’s products, a national brand has a major influence on its people, institutions, businesses, governments, products and services.   To promote brand value, hard power such as economy and technology are important. However "soft power" such as culture and image is fast becoming a crucial indicator in a very competitive world. A national brand that captures good common human values giving consideration to our heritage; allows for sharing and consideration, good communication, great service and harmony can translate into a lot and as I said earlier empower our economy strongly.

Don’t we want and deserve to be seen as a trusted and refined Australia?

Equally a personal brand that is strong and shows integrity and consideration to all is a value we should all aspire to have. So in summary I believe brand be it personal, city or country stands and means a lot in today’s world.

I think too many still think the Crocodile Dundee approach is still relevant or OK. I for one think it is too 80s. I can assure you out there with the rise of the middle class in China and the sophistication seen in countries like Korea and Japan that now in the 21s century it’s not quite cutting the mustard as it once used to and we need to also be more refined and pro-active in our responses to business enquiries and the delivery of services. Near enough is no longer good enough!

So folks it is incumbent on all of us to be the change we want to be. Talk about these things and let’s expect and when we need to demand good service and don’t accept mediocrity in anyone, least of all yourself.

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