Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Qld (CCIQ)
1. Over the years what is the one thing you have come to appreciate about the city of Cairns?
I was brought across to work on the Courier Mail from the UK and transform the paper from a broadsheet to a tabloid many years ago, so the commercial side of newspapers and I are very familiar with each other. Part of the family of NewsCorp was The Cairns Post of course, so I used to come up to Cairns to meet my colleagues and my friends from the work I was doing with the Courier Mail, so Cairns and I have always been old friends. I always admired the energy the passion and the pride people had for their city when I would come here. Cairns locals are such a passionate bunch of people. One of my first bosses for CCIQ was Brett Moller, so over the past 15 years I’ve worked alongside media and business leaders in this region a lot. Cairns has always been a part of my DNA of living in Australia. I come from a small regional city in the UK and that is one of the reasons I am on the board of Cairns Chamber of Commerce today as I understand the importance of the business advocacy bodies within regional communities.
2. The region has experienced many tough times throughout the years, but none quite like we are experiencing now. What is one message you would like to give to the people of Cairns at this uncertain time?
I think the entrepreneurial spirit and that pride that Cairns people are so well known for is what will take them through. The fact that they have been through many challenging times before such as the pilot strike, the GFC etc I find they tend to have a certain resilience in them and the ability to bounce back better than they ever have done before. Regional communities in particular seem to have an overwhelming sense of resilience. What I would say to people though is don’t miss the opportunity to revisit your business models and see how we can do things quicker, better and differently. The resilience that business owners possess in Cairns means they are ideally placed to take advantage of the opportunities that will come from this.
3. Leaders like yourself have united to fight for the region in what are unprecedented times – what role are you and your organisation playing in all of this?
Our primary role in all this is to support the Cairn Chamber of Commerce as a partnership in terms of advocacy. Our desire is to create the best business environment through our advocacy with all levels of Government to help business people survive and thrive when we eventually come out of this current crisis. The local Chamber is vital in giving us the feedback we need to respond – more voices are better than one.
4. While there are many negatives about the current situation we all find ourselves in – what is one thing you are looking forward to doing while in isolation?
We have never been busier at CCIQ. We have had over 2,500 new businesses join us within the past 3.5 weeks primarily because the Chamber of Commerce is now seen as a place that will give you all the advice and support at these challenging times. We are currently working on how we can develop more ways to support the business community and we are developing new strategies and looking at new ways of doing business. Because of the immediacy required with this health and economic crisis, we have been forced to make decisions quickly, and I think they are better decisions, as businesses are talking to us more than they ever have and they are telling us loudly and on mass what it is that they need to survive. I’m really looking forward to how we can support businesses more with the opportunities that come out of this through the recovery effort.