We brought you the remarkable statistic last week that incoming Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo’s decision to live in Sydney will mean only three of Australia’s top 15 listed companies will be run out of Melbourne, and all of them (BHP Billiton, ANZ and NAB) are headed by foreign CEOs.
Herald Sun editor Peter Blunden recently told ABC radio he believed the 2000 Olympics was the event which finally settled the long-standing rivalry in favour of Sydney. There are other symbolic decisions in recent years, like the collapse of Melbourne-based Ansett and the decision of Virgin Blue to set up in Brisbane.
Then there’s the relative decline of the union movement through the ACTU which, along with the soon-to-be gutted Australian Industrial Relations Commission, is based in Melbourne.
And after a major Victorian effort, it was Adelaide which picked up the recent destroyer contract.
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Given all this, who should be surprised to read yesterday’s Crikey Daily item by PR veteran Noel Turnbull on the decline of Melbourne’s public relations industry. PR is generally a head office function, and the multinationals have been withdrawing at a rapid rate in recent years.
The ability of Peter Costello’s Victorian forces to get him into the Lodge will be a very interesting phenomenon to watch in the context of Melbourne v Sydney. If Costello was to walk, who would become the senior Victorian Liberal? Just as like with corporate Melbourne, there’s not a lot of succession planning going on in Bleak City.
Even the Melbourne-based Institute of Public Affairs recognises the troubled times in corporate Melbourne. Its new executive director John Roskam was profiled in The AFR last week in a piece which included the following lines from his predecessor Mike Nahan:
With Victoria doing much of what we wanted – for which we were blamed by the left – it became a problem to keep business support. Melbourne changed. There was a large reduction in the number of firms – a third of our backers from those years no longer exist. A large chunk of the financial sector left, and the remaining big end of town became globally focused and/or owned, and Australia was no longer a major focus. They became policy takers, not policy makers. They were less willing to participate in dialogue.
Is this a reflection on the policies of the Kennett or Bracks governments? Are Victoria’s notoriously militant unions to blame? Or is it just a natural migration as population and investment drifts north over the generations? Your thoughts to [email protected]