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Adelaide: decline and fall

By Malcolm King - posted Thursday, 14 August 2014


From the land of third rate politicians, to diabolically dodgy recruitment practices; from a state government that spent $73 million building a one way freeway and then 14 years later, built the return lane at a cost of $400 million; from the understaffed age care facilities to some of the highest energy bills in the world; from kamikaze car drivers in the land time forgot, to sewerage fees set to the market valuation of the owner's property.

I bring you Adelaide.

With an opening like that, I've already lost half the SA readership. But as the state has some of the highest illiteracy and innumeracy rates in the OECD, who's going to notice? Let us take a trip deep inside the psycho-sociology of Adelaide.

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'All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,' Tolstoy said. Adelaide is unhappy in an impoverished way. As a child raised in Adelaide, I remember it as a pumping, cosmopolitan city. Now, 45 years later, fearing the 21st century, it has turned Amish and has turned its back on the outside world.

Many think that the recession in SA is short term and once spending picks up, all will be well. Wrong. We are witnessing the dismantling of the old manufacturing and construction based economy - two pillars that have supported the state since World War 11.

This is the power of the Asian markets at work: low cost labour and high volume, low tech manufacturing. There are other factors such as the high Australian dollar and online competition but these are secondary issues. In South Australia the same marketing jobs appear over and over again, as organisations scrabble for crumbs from a bare cupboard.

SA's key performance indicators (ABS and Labour Force) are shocking:

· In the final quarter of 2013, the local economy had shrunk by 1.0 per cent.

· SA exports comprise 14 per cent of the state's economy. Australia is 20 per cent.

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· Private investment has fallen from 7.0 per cent in 1990 to 5.0 per cent in 2013.

· SA's GSP is growing at 1.0 percent yet Australia is growing at 2.8 per cent.

· GSP has fallen from 8.5 percent in 1985 to 6.3 per cent.

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About the Author

Malcolm King works in generational workforce change. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University. He also runs a professional writing business called Republic.

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