Arguably one of ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s biggest achievements in parliament was establishing the billion-dollar National Innovation and Science Agenda, and he believes innovation is still one of the biggest drivers of the Australian economy.
Referencing entrepreneurs and startup founders at the 2019 StartCon event, Turnbull said: “Without you, Australia would not have a bright future.”
While the former prime minister said, at the time of inception, he couldn’t guarantee the NIS Agenda would work, he said today Australia had a much stronger innovation ecosystem, and a much stronger venture capital ecosystem than we had five or six years ago.
“Five years ago, there was around $150 million raised in venture capital in Australia,” Turnbull said. “In the last two years, it’s over 10 times that amount. And now, Australia is seen as a centre for innovation.”
That’s evident by the ‘unicorns’ Australia has produced, Turnbull said, like Atlassian, Canva and Airwallex.
“Ultimately, our best assets are on the ground - they’re walking around,” Turnbull said.
“Your commitment, your preparedness to have a go, and if it doesn’t work out have another go - that is what is driving our innovation economy, and what is driving our economic future, what is ensuring it.”
“Productivity is the key, and innovation is what enables productivity,” he said.
Politicians are failing Australia
“There are plenty of people in the political environment who believe that the way to win is to prey on people’s fear of change,” Turnbull said.
“And they say if you talk about innovation, people will think that means that a computer is going to take their job.
“But believe me, denying change - in denying the importance of innovation - is like denying climate change,” he said.
When asked whether Turnbull believed current prime minister Scott Morrison was supporting innovation in Australia, he said he was.
“He doesn’t have the background or experience or enthusiasm for it that I do, but Scott was the treasurer when we agreed on the National Innovation and Science Agenda...it was a process that we worked on together and came up with together,” he said.
“I do think you need assisted advocacy, but it helps if you actually have a background in it, and an understanding.”
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