Australia invented the technology underpinning Wi-Fi, along with the ‘black box’ flight recorder, ultrasound scanners and the heart pacemaker – just to mention some of our globally recognised innovations. We have an enviable track record when it comes to technology.
And yet, apparently Prime Minister Scott Morrison just wants us to adopt other country’s technologies these days. This week he told us, “we’re not trying to create the next Silicon Valley here in Australia. That’s not it. We’ve just got to be the best at adopting (other country’s technology)”.
As nearly everybody now understands, the changes that have occurred in public policy in the last few weeks are without precedent, at least since the Second World War. They tell us in the most straightforward possible way that only government finance and organisation can support the people in a national emergency.
They tell us that the extreme free market, small government model propounded by a ‘think tank’ like the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) doesn’t work when it matters most.
They show us that independent institutions with a public purpose like the ABC and CSIRO truly are part of the bedrock of Australian society. And they remind us, as we endlessly discuss issues of public health, that good government policy just cannot be based on the perverse denial of scientific understanding.
There’s no reason why Australia cannot be a leader in the Internet-driven, industrial era.
It is unusual for our two major political parties to find themselves joined at the hip on an issue of progressive national policy. But in the case of innovation, that’s just what’s happened. For a time, Labor had this one all to itself. Then, all of a sudden, a new prime minister made innovation a personal crusade. Both sides are now fighting to show who has the best innovation policy.