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It s official -- South Australia s
performance as an exporter is
going backwards. Key business
figures have warned that unless
there s a strategic change to the
way we do business, the economy
will fall further behind the national
"If you want to be in business, be
in business," said Business SA CEO
Mr Vaughan s stinging attack
on export performance followed
the latest Australian Bureau of
Statistics figures which showed
SA s exports at a lower level than at
the start of the decade in 2001.
In 2001 annual goods exports
totalled $9.1 billion, according
to official Australian Bureau of
Eight years later ABS figures
show the September 2009 total was
just $8.8 billion. After adjusting for
price inflation, the number exposes
a collapse in exports.
Mr Vaughan believes it s worse
than the figures suggest.
"Only 2 per cent of locals export,"
Mr Vaughan said.
He dismisses figures from the
Sensis Business Index that show
a local export rate of 6 per cent,
against a national average of 12 per
"It s worse than that," he said.
"The problem is that a lot of SA
companies think that export means
going to Melbourne."
SA has the lowest export
participation rate of all the states.
The State Government has
abandoned its State Strategic Plan
target of increasing export to
$25 billion by 2010, opting instead to
push the target date out to 2014.
But the plan s latest update
claims that export values are
beyond local control.
"The rate of growth has been
inhibited in recent years by
factors outside the state s control,
including drought, an over-valued
exchange rate and instability in our
key overseas markets," the plan s
July 2008 update conceded.
Since that date, the situation has
got worse in two of those key areas.
A snapshot of export perform-
ance from the ABS tells the tale for
Wine, copper, wheat and motor
vehicles had been our big export
Motor vehicle exports have fallen
through the floor in the past two
years, dropping almost 70 per cent
in the past 12 months.
Wine went west with the global
financial crisis hitting key
customers in the UK and US, and
copper was hit by falling minerals
On the horizon, wheat prospects
are good, motor vehicles and wine
will struggle to hold their levels
and copper will take a hit with
a shutdown of the main shaft at
BHP s Olympic Dam mine between
now and at least April next year.
While these industries float on
the international sea of circum-
stance, locals believe we need to
start building a stronger base that
is less exposed.
Nicholas Begakis is chairman of
the Council for International Trade
and Commerce SA (CITCSA), a peak
body for 40 ethnic organisations
that promote trade between SA and
their countries of origin.
Mr Begakis told his group this
year that there is a need to re-focus.
"There is a need for an
International Trade Export Centre
to broadcast to South Australians
the critical need for export-driven
economic growth," he wrote in his
chairman s report in September.
He also applauded government-
sponsored trade missions to China,
India and Italy.
But Business SA s Peter Vaughan
said the notion of government-
sponsored chit-chats was outdated.
"We ve got to stop relying
on government-funded and
government-supported set ups," he
"Those days are over now."
He has instead proposed three
challenges to local industry:
■ Overcome the idea that trade
stops at Indonesia or Fiji and
embrace the big guns of China,
India and Russia.
■ Learn to use technology to
overcome our disadvantage of
distance from markets. Spend
money to set up the infrastructure
to build new relationships.
Exporting means more than going
■ Nothing beats eyeball-to-eyeball
While the numbers tell a sorry
tale, almost all economic analysts
point to the coming expansion of
mining operations as a saviour for
the state s economy.
But the expansion talk has been
around since 2004 and looks further
away than at any time in the past
Greens MLC Mark Parnell
believes SA needs to thinks smarter.
"We can t be at the whim of
currency fluctuations," Mr Parnell
"We are smart people.
"It s time we faced our challenges
-- water security, peak power supply
etc -- and fixed the problems.
"When we fix the problem, we can
then export the solution -- that s a
slide in export
Continued Page 14
Business SA chief executive
officer Peter Vaughan at
his office in Grenhill Road,
Adelaide. Photo: James Knowler
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