The Government isn’t serious about innovation

Anthony Caruana
14 March, 2016
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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.

3 Comments

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  1. James Short says:

    I doubt those luddites even know how to work an iPod. Sending a gramophone may be more on their level.

  2. Tailgator says:

    Unfortunately this is indicative of a Govt hoping to avoid real scrutiny and having to provide actual substance to the catch phrases they are using. Things like ‘innovative’ ‘agile’ etc etc don’t mean **** unless there is something of real worth in support.

    And as a side note, it’s worth noting that the PM recently just happened to travel up north in NSW where he promoted his MTM debacle (including anecdotal evidence from ‘Mitch’) on the same day that the Senate Select Committee on the NBN were hearing from nationally respected high profile techs, both academic and practicing.

    A sure sign that Turnbull was hoping to deprive that hearing of oxygen in the media, and a sure sign he knows his policy is a crock of -.
    The PM is running scared and I sort of feel sorry for Mitch Fifield MP. He’s been handed a poisoned chalice.

  3. Ivan Smith says:

    I can’t believe that Malcolm Turnbull would have allowed a Junior Minister to front an event with dozens of Newspaper and Technical Magazine editors and reporters, and not have anything substantial to say.
    It seems odd, given the state of affairs with research and innovation, with NBN and CSIRO, and the reduced funding of same, especially as an early election is indicated. Even if only early by a few months, having Ministers and the campaign managers working feverishly on re-election would be normal and expected by now.
    I hope Bill Shorten has also been appraised of the non-event, and he has better plans developed for his campaign! And that he has at his disposal, senior people who do know the subjects and can be expected to lead a discourse, front a TV program, or News, and know what they are talking about.
    The ABC’s Q and A last night shows what could be achieved with ideas and models and answers for the future, but we all need to get off our butts and actually work for that future, with innovation and development and the proper education of those bright young people out there. They will be our future, and they need assistance to develop that future, not to be exploited and dumbed down by scammy education “colleges” and courses that are there only to make money for the already excessively rich.

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