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Adelaide is dying

By Malcolm King - posted Wednesday, 6 November 2019

In the movies, we want the hero to win. Likewise, we believe that western cities will always thrive. But what happens if over 40 years, the best and the brightest minds leave a city; if laziness, nepotism and incompetence rules?

What happens if the business sector is addicted to government handouts and if the media becomes jaded and partial? What if the senior public service operates like a blundering colonial squattocracy addicted to perks?

This story is about Adelaide and it is dying.


Back in 2014, I had left the Department of Employment in Canberra and returned to Adelaide. I started seriously looking at Adelaide's economy. I was motivated by two factors. One was to question why international bands were bypassing Adelaide (a story in itself) and a quote from a former Adelaide Thinker-in-Residence, Charles Landy.

"Decline mostly takes time and happens by imperceptible steps. Each small moment in itself does not matter, but when the steps are taken together it matters dramatically … Adelaide must avoid this fate… It will do so only if it recognises there is a crisis, even though it mostly does not feel like one."

Behind the smiley face Festival of Arts and wine stories, I uncovered alarming statistics - none of which were reported in the local media - which showed serious economic decline, not only in relative terms but in absolute terms.

Thousands of people have been thrown out of secure full-time work and into precarious employment or underemployment. Much of this is hidden by the old-fashioned ABS methodology.

Roy Morgan conducts door-to-door surveys, which shows SA's unemployment rate at about 9 per cent (not 6.3 per cent as per ABS) and under employment around 11 per cent (Morgan).

The workforce is being carved to pieces due to unrelenting economic contraction.


Gross State Product (GSP) is the total value of goods and services produced in a financial year. The above graph plots the state's economic decline. The 2007-08 blip upwards is the Federal Government pump-priming the national economy during the Global Financial Crisis.

In the last five years, more than 1500 SMEs have closed. I have included a very small sample below.

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About the Author

Malcolm King is a journalist and professional writer. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University in Adelaide. He runs a writing business called Republic.

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