Committee for Melbourne calls on leaders to come together to restore city’s fortunes

The Committee for Melbourne says the COVID-19 health crisis has been poorly managed in Victoria and issued a call to arms to protect Melbourne's position as "one of the world's great global cities".

The organisation, which brings together 150 members from business, academic and community circles, is urging the state's political, business and cultural leaders to emulate the response to the state’s last recession 30 years ago.

Committee for Melbourne chief executive Martine Letts. Credit:Justin McManus

In the early 1990s, an unlikely coalition of political, union and business figures came together to plan Melbourne and Victoria’s recovery from recession.

The disparate figures included brewing titan John Elliott, then-premier Joan Kirner, businessman and then-Victorian Liberal Party treasurer Graeme Samuel, trucking boss Lindsay Fox and former ACTU secretary Bill Kelty.

The collaborative approach led to the formation of the Committee for Melbourne, which drove recession-busting reforms including the redevelopment of Docklands and the introduction of Sunday trading.

Committee for Melbourne chief executive Martine Letts said the state was in dire need of a similarly collaborative approach to restore the city's fortunes and reputation.

"Not since the economic downturn of the 1980s has Melbourne’s position as one of the world’s great global cities been so profoundly challenged," she said.

"The COVID-19 health crisis has not been well managed in Victoria – the facts are clear, but rather than dwelling on why we are in this position, we need to focus on what Victoria and Melbourne need to do to emerge strongly from the COVID-19 health crisis."

Committee for Melbourne members were "concerned and frustrated" with the situation in Melbourne, she said, "where fear is being cultivated rather than challenged".

"Other cities are trying to poach our research, engineering and technical talent, and working hard to attract job-creating investments that in the past would have come our way. We need to turn this
situation around."

Ms Letts said the Andrews government and bureaucracy should balance the effective management of the health crisis with a plan to reopen the economy.

"This is not an either-or choice – we need a both-and approach," she said.

For the past six months, the committee has been running "road to recovery" working groups of its members and liaising with government agencies and industry.

From those workshops have come a number of ideas to generate economic activity and restore confidence in the city and state, by getting Melburnians back to work safely and generating jobs and investment in Melbourne.

They include:

  • Convening health and industry experts to design a transparent system for getting Melburnians back to work safely (sector by sector)
  • Launching a major multimedia campaign to restore confidence in Melbourne
  • Creating jobs and opportunities for investment in Melbourne
  • Developing an "aggressive" Melbourne headquarters strategy, especially in sectors where Melbourne has a good international reputation, including education, biotech and healthcare, financial services, digital, events, arts and culture
  • Supporting local innovation and manufacturing
  • Launching major urban infrastructure projects, including a Melbourne Airport rail link, with a tunnel between Sunshine and Southern Cross Station.

The Committee for Melbourne will report its recommendations to Victorian Governor Linda Dessau next month.

A spokeswoman for Premier Daniel Andrews said: "We understand that everyone is making huge sacrifices, but this strategy is working, and we are driving cases down."



"Seven weeks ago, our average case numbers were peaking at more than 400 every single day – today it sits at just over 20."

"The roadmaps for metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria outline the safe and steady steps to make sure Victoria can open and stay open."

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