NSW picks former Telstra CEO David Thodey to lead $190 million jobs fund

Former Telstra CEO David Thodey will chair the $190 million Jobs for NSW fund, aimed at funding employers in the state. Photo: Louie Douvis Former Telstra CEO David Thodey will chair the $190 million Jobs for NSW fund, aimed at funding employers in the state. Photo: Louie Douvis
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The NSW Government has picked former Telstra chief executive David Thodey to chair a new $190 million fund that aims to help employers create thousands of jobs over the next four years.

The Jobs for NSW fund will consolidate a range of existing taxpayer dollars and spend it on opportunities to be picked by leading figures in the private sector. At least 30 per cent of the fund will go to regional areas.

The state government, led by Premier Mike Baird, has committed to creating 150,000 new jobs over the four years ending March 2019 and the fund is designed to help it reach the target.

NSW Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts said start-ups were a key focus for the fund, which will have the final say on whether investments go ahead.

“I am to be bold and I’ve said to David [Thodey], David is to be bold,” he said. “We need to take some risks, we need to back the best and brightest and not everyone is going to be a winner but the beauty of start-ups is that if you get one winner in every ten you’re talking about a huge win.

“Government’s role is to create an environment to enable these great minds, this great talent to be nurtured to grow, create wealth and create jobs.”

Mr Thodey told Fairfax Media he was approached to take on the job about two weeks after announcing his retirement in late February, adding that the first Jobs for NSW board meeting was due in November.

The new fund is yet to work out its investment criteria, which will outline the types and sizes of companies that can apply for money and assistance.

“I don’t think we’re seeing a lot of job creation in the top 20 ASX-listed companies of Australia at the moment, I think it’s in the mid-corporate and start up area,” he said. “That does not say we’re precluding that area … because there could be a large corporation doing a big start-up that we may want to support.”

“We will take proposals from anywhere in the private sector and look at it as an investment opportunity for both an investment and job creation.”

The fund will also consider providing some start-ups with Series A funding in exchange for equity in the companies. But Mr Thodey said it was unlikely that it would compete against his previous company’s Telstra Ventures wing.

“This is not political for me – this is purely a commitment to creating jobs in NSW and I think it’s a great way of using the funding that had been used in many different ways in a more managed and controlled fashion,” he said. “Jobs for NSW should not be involved in politics, it should stand above that and that’s why we’re having private sector people involved.

“The CSIRO and this thing were two ways I wanted to give back to the community.”

The Jobs for NSW fund will have five members from the private sector who are picked by the NSW Government and the secretaries of the Departments of Industry and Premier and Cabinet.