New South Wales Premier Offers a Vision for His Capital

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New South Wales Premier Offers a Vision for His Capital

Nick Greiner, the premier of New South Wales, takes an expansive view of his state's capital city, Sydney.

"Sydney is the only world city," Mr. Greiner said, "the only global Australian city not just in terms of being the transport and communications hub but also as the headquarters of the great majority of Australian economic wealth."

This year, Mr. Greiner won a second four-year term of state government; he is passionately committed to Sydney's importance as a business and finance center.

Sydney's Attractions

"By any definition, Sydney is where it's at in Australia," said Mr. Greiner. "In terms of service industries, I don't think there's a real question.

"I suppose I could say with normal premier's pride there isn't a real question in terms of life-style and where executives would want to live, either.

"In terms of competition in Australia, I think the race has been run, and it would be a strange international location decision to choose anywhere other than Sydney on either economic, environmental, or any sort of practical or emotional grounds," he said.

However, while Mr. Greiner sees Sydney's position as clearly ahead of those of other main Australian cities, he admitted the question of competition in the region is more difficult.

Easy to Do Business

"I think some of the answers are again obvious in the sense that it is the easiest place in which to do business," Mr. Greiner said, "and easiest in the sense it has the service base, the legal, accounting, and communications base that is second to none."

"There is a very high comfort factor, and in Sydney, it's fair to say, in some ways you wouldn't notice a difference from many parts of the United States.

"The quality of the available local work force and human skill base is very high," Mr. Greiner said, "and it applies not only in the finance area but across a range of services and general management."

He acknowledged that it is "very hard to disguise" the fact that, while geographically part of Asia, Sydney is not as close to the epicenter of Asian business as Singapore or Hong Kong.

Good Transportation Links

"But the truth is, we now have direct, nonstop access to everywhere in the region," Mr. Greiner said. "Sydney is in that sense an easy place and a comfortable place to do business in the region.

"In financial terms, it has a better and more stable stock market than most other centers. It has a very large futures market, and both of those in a sense are undersold in the U.S. I would have thought that Sydney was easier than stock markets anywhere else in Asia, with the exception of Tokyo."

Nevertheless, one of the biggest drawbacks Sydney faces in comparison with the likes of Singapore and Hong Kong is the tax regime. And the apparent inability or unwillingness of the authorities to make Australian taxation rules as attractive to overseas companies as its Asian rivals have done is troublesome.

One such taxation area, relating to banking, makes the establishment of offshore banking units in Sydney impracticable or simply impossible.

This is being addressed by the federal government, but critics said it has been too long coming. It may be too late even to modify taxation regimes such as the 10% withholdings tax on interest that makes offshore banking unviable.

Singapore and Hong Kong are seen as having a stranglehold on the foreign banking marketplace.

However, Mr. Greiner's state government has been active in trying to create incentives for overseas businesses, as far as it can given obstacles to meaningful legislative change under the federal-state system of government.

Mr. Greiner has moved to abolish stamp duty on share transactions, something within his power as stamp duties are state imposts. …