Formerly known as ‘The Sunshine State’, Queensland is smartening up, becoming just as well known for its skills in education and manufacturing as its natural beauty.
Home to tropical weather and endless beaches and reefs, Queensland is a source of natural wonder and beauty. But, while continuing to grow a quality reputation for its natural resources and food products, the state is also becoming known for its skills and facilities in education, specialised services and manufacturing.
Ian Brazier, manager of the Queensland Export Adviser Network at Austrade in Brisbane, evokes Charles Dickens to describe the current export environment for Queensland companies: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
As with any state, Queensland has its strengths and weaknesses. Mining and agribusiness remain the pillars of its export success: strong demand from Asian markets, including China and India, has seen resource exports benefit, while the agricultural sector begins to enjoy its first ‘normal’ year in many. Weaker is the manufacturing sector, which “has been struggling to stay competitive in the face of the high Australian dollar, as has tourism,” says Brazier. “Education is holding up against major demographic changes in key markets such as Japan and Korea.”
However, a highly skilled workforce, along with a high standard of living and investment in other industries, has allowed Queensland to broaden its global offerings. “Queensland has been looking to secure a future for its exports well after the current resources boom and far beyond traditional markets for rocks and crops,” says Queensland’s Minister for Trade, John Mickel.
While rural industries and resources continue to flourish, Mickel claims there has been significant growth in knowledge-intensive exports of professional and scientific research services, as well as specialised manufacturing and material-handling equipment.
Requiring intense inputs of technology and human capital, these exports rely on a well-educated and highly skilled workforce of which Queensland has an abundance, according to Mickel, who says this is why Queensland is ‘The Smart State’.
Exports in knowledge-intensive industries have increased by $487 million (12.7 percent) over the 2005-06 and 2006-07 financial periods, from $3.8 billion to $4.3 billion. This growth exceeds that of other states including New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the national average. “We have a strong knowledge-intensive focus for our future exports in sectors including health and biotechnology, water solutions, solar energy, clean coal technology, creative industries, education and aviation as well as information and communications technology,” Mickel says.
The right export environment
Similarities with Asian neighbours in terms of climate also provide Queensland with a competitive edge. When it comes to providing expertise, products and services in areas such as tropical science, building services, vegetation management and consumer products such as cosmetics specifically designed for use in warmer climates, Mickel believes Queensland is a logical supplier of choice in Asia.
Similarly, Brazier says Queensland exporters in the building and construction sector are set to benefit from major projects in the Pacific region as it proves itself as the export gateway to places such as Papua New Guinea. “Despite a slowdown in the recently strong Fiji market, new mining developments in New Caledonia, along with new resources projects in Papua New Guinea, are seeing Queensland exporters active in the region as it builds its reputation as a leader in subtropical and tropical design,” he says.
The creative industries sector in Queensland has also been performing well, Brazier adds. Brisbane was named one of the world’s top music hotspots by USA’s Billboard magazine. The music scene in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley continues to attract international interest via events such as the BIG SOUND Music Industry Conference, which ran from 10-12 September, sponsored this year by Trade Queensland. “As the hub of creative talent, heavy investment from Queensland’s University of Technology into the creative industry is driving further growth in the sector,” Brazier says. “This creative buzz in Queensland is leading to new, innovative companies such as Musicadium, who have established themselves in the global marketplace for digital music distribution.”