Over the last couple of days, I’ve been attending an annual conference, the Tech Leaders forum. This event is an opportunity for over 30 technology journalists to meet with and listen to speakers from a broad range of companies as well as the Government and Opposition.
Over recent years, we’ve been able to hear from ministers, shadow ministers and senators such as Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Ludlum, Jason Clare and Paul Fletcher. Yesterday, the the opening keynote was given by the Federal Member for Lindsay, Fiona Scott.
Unfortunately, Scott was poorly briefed and ill prepared for the audience of technology writers and analysts. Reading a prepared speech – that was not read particularly well – Scott discussed a number of topics where buzzwords such as innovation, Uber and ‘innovation corridor’ were bandied about. However, when the 35-minute speech was complete, the remaining seven minutes or so of question time, with an audience thirsty for information on what the Federal Government is doing nationally to address issues regarding the funding reductions at CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) and NICTA (formerly known as National ICT [Information and Communications Technology] Australia), the state of the NBN (National Broadband Network) and Government support for research and development, the best answer Scott could give was, “Sorry but I am only here to talk about Western Sydney.”
While it would be easy to lump all the blame on Scott, the real blame lies with the leadership of the Federal Government.
The Tech Leaders forum has been running for over a decade. The audience is well-known and the depth of understanding required for answering policy and technical questions is also well-known.
Unfortunately, the Government chose to send a junior minister rather than a more qualified speaker who would be able to stand up to some scrutiny and deep questioning.
This suggests the Government is somewhat contemptuous of any deep scrutiny to its technology and innovation agenda.
We are now in a de facto election campaign. The Government is dangling the carrot of an early election – even though an election is due later in the year – but seems to think technology and innovation isn’t a topic that bears serious discourse.
The Government missed a substantial opportunity with a room full of technology journalists who could have written stories for every major masthead in the country as well as many other publications. They could have presented a serious blueprint with a platform for its broad dissemination.
Instead, they presented an unqualified speaker with a script.
They may as well have sent an iPod and speaker system.