THE ARGUMENT FOR A DEDICATED SOUTH AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT COMMERCIAL OFFICE IN SOUTH EAST ASIA

The South Australian Government is establishing a presence in South East Asia through AUSTRADE offices in major cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Singapore. This aligns with the investment over the next four years to implement the engagement strategy for South East Asia.

The South Australian Government recently closed its dedicated offices in these markets in South East Asia (including an additional regional office in Bandung, West Java). It is understood that these offices were perceived by the South Australian Government to be expensive to maintain, ineffective and corrupt.

Below are reasons why this Plan is not in the Government’s best interests:

  • Marketing and selling South Australia, its exports and investment opportunities requires an effective promotion and distribution system. The State needs to be accessible and promotional activities must align with an accessible office. Austrade’s presence behind embassy walls, security systems and confiscation of mobile phones and Ipads on entry is a massive barrier to promoting the State, reaching the local business community and providing a window to the State’s products, services and investment opportunities.
  • The Embassies and Austrade offices are ‘Australian’ and have no recognition of individual States, let alone South Australia. There is little or no scope for individual promotion of South Australia.
  • Austrade offices weaken the ability to compete with interstate exports and investment opportunities.
  • Will an Austrade officer pursue a South Australian export opportunity at the expense of a potentially larger export win for another State? Most unlikely.
  • Would Austrade promote South Australia ahead of other States for visiting trade and investment missions? Most unlikely.
  • Austrade is more likely to respond to and act on the requirements of the State than be proactive in seeking export and investment outcomes.
  • Austrade is more likely to be, for example, Jakarta-centric at the expense of pursuing trade and investment opportunities associated with South Australia’s sister Provinces i.e. West Java.
  • Other Australian States have retained dedicated offices and a meaningful presence in the region.
  • South Australia has lost ground (and face) due to the closure of offices, especially in Indonesia. 
  • The establishment of a presence in South East Asia in this way is half-hearted and lacks commitment.It would be preferable to invest properly as a dedicated presence at a later stage and do nothing now.
  •  Austrade may not prioritise South Australia (only the eastern States matter).
  • Austrade’s intelligence and advice is inconsistent in quality across regions.The suggested preferred solution:
  • Open one dedicated commercial office in South East Asia (Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur, preferably KL for cost and logistical reasons).
  • Employ a South Australian commercial representative who understands the sensitivities and culture of doing business in South East Asia, has sound business acumen, has strong networks in the region and in South Australia, understands both the public and private sectors’ roles in business and appreciates the ‘fit’ between South Australian capability and South East Asian demand.