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Innovation present likely to be all packaging

By Judith Sloan - posted Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Most people will be counting the number of sleeps until Christmas. I’m counting the number of sleeps until the innovation statement. I am expecting Father Innovation to have a sack full of taxpayer- funded goodies.

Hopefully, he also will offer some sensible advice.

Now some insightful readers may query the basis of a government issuing an innovation statement. Is this the equivalent of Canberra bureaucrats giving lessons in spontaneity?


When we consider the backgrounds of the responsible ministers, Christopher Pyne and Wyatt Roy, their combined years of experience in business is precisely zero. Arguably, neither would recognise an innovative proposition with commercial potential if it hit them in the face.

It has to be said that the Turnbull government’s foray into government-induced innovation didn’t started well. Check out these admissions from Pyne, recalling his initial conversation with Malcolm Turnbull.

“I’m quite an orthodox politician, quite conservative. Malcolm said: come up with some ideas to bring together a national innovation agenda.

“After our first meeting he said: ‘That’s great, but I’d like you to release your inner revolutionary.’ I said: that will cost money. He said: ‘Let me worry about the money, you get on with the ideas.’

“That’s very exciting for a cabinet minister, I can tell you, when everyone else is being asked to tighten (their) belts.”

Oh dear. National innovation agenda? Hidden revolutionary? Don’t worry about the money?


And whether a trip to Israel taken by Roy really counts as contributing to the national innovation agenda is debatable. The trouble with these fact-finding missions is that there tends to be more spin than substance, more hype than useful lessons.

Don’t get me wrong — I think the Israel experience is a very interesting one.

In many ways, Israel operates a war economy. The fact it has been able to leverage off compulsory military conscription, a large defence industry and a workforce with deep technical and scientific skills to create new companies (indeed, industries) is testament to the resilience and inventiveness of Israeli citizens.

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This article was first published in The Australian.

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About the Author

Judith Sloan is Honorary Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne.

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