I heard a radio ad for the Government’s innovation initiative. It sounded great; proactive, welcoming, open to all, and truly placing value of Australia’s future. But there’s one thing that bothers me about the plan. Where are the ideas going to come from?
Are they going to come from parents, whose ideas get interrupted by the needs of a child they can’t afford childcare for? Are they going to come from women whose train of thought shifts to the extra out of pocket medical expenses they need to pay as the Government cuts Medicare funding for pathology procedures? Are they going to come from students whose Youth Allowance has taken months to process, adding stress and more pressure to work longer hours while studying full time? Who, exactly, does Malcolm Turnbull expect to have the access to health, education and social support to be able to come up with these ideas that Australia will build its future on? And when, against the odds, some innovative Australian develops a great idea, is the Government’s innovation program going to cover support for their families, while the innovator expends their time and energy trying to get it off the ground?
I don’t question that innovation is worth investing in. Research and development has shown itself to be a worthwhile risk in almost every industry that invests heavily in it. Communication tech, pharmaceuticals, transport engineering and energy production developments this century alone have improved the quality of life for billions. But I do want to question what a government which explicitly rejects equality for all Australians, on so many grounds, expects in the way of success from a program that is inherently powered by people.
If you want to build a business making paper, it’s smart to first invest in sustainable forests. The Turnbull government needs to show the country whose ideas they are, in fact, looking for. The next big software program could be in the mind of a first generation Australian with a single mother. A turning point in resource engineering is just as likely buried with a teenager with mental health need. So I want to know, where is the investment in health to get Australia’s system of care truly universal? Where is the investment in quality teachers, and social workers? And when the support is there, Malcolm, I’ll show you an ideas boom.