Turnbull to deliver innovation policies in December

The federal government is set to unveil its innovation agenda next month, which the prime minister said will contain policies on dealing with innovation, startups, and entrepreneurship in Australia.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Before the year is over, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will deliver an innovation statement containing a set of policies that focus on how Australia can attract and retain talent, as well as how the nation should support and encourage startups.

Speaking at the Australian 2015 Economic and Social Outlook Conference in Melbourne on Thursday, Turnbull said the statement will include ways to encourage a culture of innovation. He said ensuring that children are acquiring the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills they need, as well as possessing the understanding or familiarity with "machine languages" is also on the agenda.

Turnbull said that as an open market economy in a much larger world, Australia must be more productive, more innovative, and more competitive.

"Across the board, we must acquire not just the skills but the culture of agility that enables us to make volatility our friend, bearing fresh opportunities, not simply a foe brandishing threats," he said.

"Reform should not be seen as a once in a decade or two convulsion, accompanied by a hyperbolic scare campaign; rather it should be seen as a change of political culture."

Turnbull believes that in the midst of economic, political, and technological change, the opportunities for Australians have never been greater.

"In the middle of so much growth and change, we are able successfully to transition our economy to one that wins and keeps on winning; we talk a lot about reform, especially here, but that's just a means to an end," he said.

"We need to be more innovative, we need to be more technologically sophisticated."

According to Turnbull, "every sinew" of government policy is designed to deliver better jobs and greater opportunities. He said open discussion and consultation aids the task of reform, as it is not enough to persuade the public that your motives are good without demonstrating them.

"That is why we are not trying to reduce complex issues to slogans, why we are not playing the rule-in-rule out game, and why we welcome every contribution to this debate," Turnbull said.

"Across government, business, the labour movement, and the wider community, we need to have a grown-up discussion which first clarifies the policy goals and then identifies and removes any obstacles that may be hampering our capacity to generate growth, productivity, investment, and jobs."

There is a need to work practically and in partnership, Turnbull said, in a way that anticipates economic opportunities as they emerge.

"If a particular policy approach doesn't deliver as required or anticipated, we have to be ready to reappraise it -- reset as and when needed so objectives can still be met," he said. "If a policy doesn't work, chuck it out; if you see somebody is achieving your objective in a better way, remember the sincerest form of flattery is plagiarism -- copy them, take it over."

"Adjust, tweak, agility is the key; the objective is what we're all about."

Since his appointment in September, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has constantly reaffirmed his stance on the importance of investing in science, promoting education in STEM, and supporting innovation and startups in Australia.

It was a busy day for innovation in Australian politics, with the topic headlining the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Industry and Skills Council meeting.

The Minister for Industry, Innovation, and Science Christopher Pyne said innovation is at the heart of the nation's continued growth.

"As we head towards the announcement of our innovation agenda in December it's important that we look at any obstacle at any level of government," Pyne said.

"We will work with the states and territories to identify and remove any road blocks for Australian innovation by addressing any cross-jurisdictional issues which may be hindering innovation policy in Australia."

Pyne said Thursday's COAG session discussed ways to identify potentially unnecessary or duplicate regulation and legislative frameworks that may be undermining the progress and growth of innovation in Australia.

"This government firmly believes that science and innovation underpin industry growth, drive business productivity, and will improve our global competitiveness," he said.

"We will continue to support innovation through its many programs, but we are always looking for new ideas and ways to continue to build on the innovation agenda which is gathering strong momentum."

Also on Thursday, Turnbull's Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy said he wants Australia to embrace Tel Aviv's startup practices. He said there is a strong cultural element in Israeli innovation and believes there is a lot Australia can learn from this.

"I've often said that we need to embrace the best elements of our culture -- that aspirational mindset, that 'have a go' mentality -- and support the underdog," Roy said, "Here in Israel, it's very much evident in every element of their society they embrace that Hebrew word, 'chutzpah', where they go out and they are prepared to take on an enormous amount of risk to have a go -- and they're not afraid of failure."

According to Roy, Israel has more startups per capita than any other country, more investment in research and development, and more venture capital invested per capita than any other country on earth.

"They really are the global golden standard when it comes to innovation," he said.

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