By CASEY NEILL
Greater Dandenong Council will forge further international ties to boost business opportunities.
Councillors approved a new international relations policy to replace its Sister Cities document at the Monday 25 July meeting, despite opposition and an alternative motion from Cr Matthew Kirwan.
He unsuccessfully moved that the policy be put on hold pending an evidence-based justification of the reasons for continuing a sister city relationship with Xuzhou, China, in terms of benefit to the Greater Dandenong community.
“There hasn’t been solid evidence of new business relationships formed,” he said.
“I have only been told of one.”
Cr Kirwan also asked for the policy to be revised to include fostering links between community groups and schools in the two locations.
The International Relations policy was developed to provide guidelines for establishing and managing international economic and civic relationships.
The policy report said the council’s relationship with Xuzhou had developed and enhanced economic opportunities.
But Cr Maria Sampey supported Cr Kirwan.
She asked whether the council could liaise with its Xuzhou counterparts using teleconferencing via the internet instead of travelling there.
“But I was told at the briefing tonight that there’s no Facebook in China,” she said.
“This generation, so much technology, we’re saying that ‘no it can’t be done’ and we’ve got to spend thousands of dollars getting business people to meet with the Chinese Government?
“When they come to Australia it’s just a five minute fly-in with us and then they’re off to New Zealand or whatever.”
She questioned whether the relationship was genuine or “a means of getting out of their country”.
Business group manager Paul Kearsley explained that any computer platform based on Google was not supported in China and “Facebook is certainly not supported in China”.
He said communication government to government was possible but many small to medium enterprises lacked the latest technology.
Cr Sean O’Reilly said the council’s relationship with Xuzhou had only recently taken a business focus.
“For the good of business in Greater Dandenong I think we should continue to explore that relationship with Xuzhou, and China more broadly,” he said.
“You can’t always conduct a relationship on Skype. It’s not the same … particularly between two different cultures.
“The more this council can help business to engage China and other markets, the better for local jobs.”
Crs John Kelly and Jim Memeti said the relationship could create employment in the municipality.