120 industry guests were treated to the hospitality of freshly appointed VACC President, Fury Bortolotto marking the beginning of an exciting new era of leadership for the Chamber. Geoff Gwilym, VACC CEO was MC for the evening and in his welcoming address introduced special guests including:
The Hon. Nick Wakeling, Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations and Workplace Safety, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Shadow Minister for Child Protection.
The Hon. David Hodgett, Shadow Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events.
The Hon. Bruce Atkinson, Member for Eastern Metropolitan.
The guest list was a who’s who of industry identities from automotive bodies and associations from Victoria and around the country, corporate leaders from vehicle manufacturers and other sectors and numerous automotive journalists, all eager to hear the insights the evening promised.
The formalities got underway with the President’s address, the focus of which was the critical skill shortage across the automotive sector. Bortolotto referred to the minutes of a VACC board meeting from the 1960’s, and I paraphrase: “the industry has overcome the skilled labour shortages and has put processes in place to avoid such a situation in the future.” He went on to say that it was one of his primary objectives to lead the VACC in its quest to redress the current situation.
Gwilym then introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Australia’s longest serving Treasurer, The Hon. Peter Costello AC who entertained and enlightened the audience with his knowledge of the automotive sector and its position in the economy as a whole. He posed a question to the automotive industry: Has anybody thanked you for bringing the prices of vehicles down while the costs of insurance, utilities and school fees continue to rise?
The former Treasurer’s spearhead message was that the automotive industry needs to adapt quickly to the constantly changing business landscape, using the example of Channel 9, of which he is independent non-executive chairman. In the past, he said, the television broadcaster’s competitors were rival TV stations – now the competition is Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. These are huge, powerful companies that are here to stay, and likely to continue to acquire market share. So, Channel 9, and the other stations, need to adapt to this ‘new world’. The alternative is – go out of business.
Costello concluded by making the point that analogously, traditional vehicles – and those businesses that sell, service and repair them – are facing competition from non-traditional sources, such as electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and perhaps even ‘flying vehicles’, and we too must adapt.
Gwilym noted that Costello’s final comment was a nice segue into the topic of guest speaker, David Taylor, Operations and Business Development Manager from Australian company, Macchina Volantis. Taylor explored the intriguing subject of what he calls Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) vehicles, or what some people call ‘big drones’ or ‘small helicopters’. These vehicles are essentially unmanned flying vehicles that are large enough and powerful enough to transport people and/or up to 450kg of cargo.
The fantasy world of 1960s cartoon series The Jetsons may well be upon us, as Taylor noted that both Bunnings Warehouse and Domino’s Pizza have already experimented with home delivery of step-ladders and margherita pizzas using drone technology. The VTOL vehicles of Macchina Volantis’ world, said Taylor, are simply the next step in the evolution of personal transport.
Gwilym wrapped up the evening by thanking the speakers, special guests and the audience for what was clearly a very special event in the calendar of the automotive industry’s pre-eminent industry association.