We all know it is almost impossible to win any game from the sidelines. Crowds cheer and coaches pull levers, but it is players that execute and that is why they get to lift the cup.
One of the biggest games going around right now is influencing economic development across North Australia. What happens next will play out in shaping business opportunities, jobs, new social and physical infrastructure, and whether our kids decide that North Australia is for them.
But a lot of the decisions that matter are not being made here in the North. They are being made in boardrooms, committee meetings, at Federal Cabinet meetings, or by individual investors and even tourists in other parts of Australia.
Master Builders has consistently argued the Territory needs to own the North Australia discussion because it matters more to us than anywhere else. Darwin is the true capital of the North and Alice Springs is the centre of Australia.
Our organisation argues we cannot leave it to others to shape our future and we are way too comfortable remaining Australia’s best kept secret, never achieving our true potential.
Instead, we should be doing everything we can to build our reputation, encouraging some genuine excitement about what the North has to offer Australia.
If there was one area where we must go much harder, it is to push for a place at many of the tables where the decisions are being made.
Right now, you would have to look very hard to find a Territorian at most tables. It really is insightful to see how many of those organisations do not even have a North Australia representative or a direct view to the North.
I accept that there are lots of reasons for this. Our small population guarantees we simply cannot be everywhere, for example. Sometimes, the right technical expertise is in short supply and a lot of the time no-one has asked us to be involved.
The truth be told we are sitting on the sidelines while others are playing the game. To those down south it might not matter. But it is time to get engaged and it should matter to us enough to say: “Enough is enough.”
To get engaged we will have to overcome one huge self-imposed hurdle. There is a strong view we do not have the people of the right calibre to put forward to the decision-making boards and committees.
We just must get past this curse of familiarity.
I could never imagine other states and territories ever believing they are bereft of talent. And we should not either. I have met enough outstanding Territorians to know the view is simply wrong.
Our problem is not talent. Our problem is failing to be strategic about getting our people into the right spots. Most boards and committees are not always formed from the best available talent. It is more about nods and winks – or worse, Minister’s friends and supporters.
There is a game at play, and it is won by those that play it well.
Right now, the rule book for economics is being rewritten thanks to the covid pandemic. We must make sure North Australia is pushing its way into those discussions and that we do not get left behind.
We must be in the game and to do that we need to get our troops on the ground.
It is time to start pushing our talent forward at every opportunity. Those opportunities will be good for the individuals we push but we will be the ultimate winner. It is part of how we shape the economic future of North Australia.
Dave Malone is Chief Executive Officer of Master Builders NT.