James Riley
March 23, 2016

Why Bill Shorten won’t get elected

Why Bill Shorten won’t get elected

Kim Carr: He's just not that into you

Bill Shorten and his team have a spring in their step and feel they have a whiff of a chance of rolling the Turnbull Government at the coming election. But they won’t do it with Kim Carr running Labor’s innovation and industry policies.

The government has successfully – so far – defined this election year as a choice between which side of politics can best manage the transition of the economy away from its reliance on the resources and energy sectors.

For all of the political mechanics of a possible double dissolution and an early election, this government has hung its hat on the strength of its innovation policy and the public appeal of a technology-based reshaping of the way we see ourselves in the world.

Yes, of course, there are any number of reasons why Labor might struggle in 2016. But at InnovationAus.com, we look at the world through innovation-coloured glasses. We restrict our thinking our thinking to innovation policy. And Labor has barely been in the fight.

Here’s the thing. Innovation as it is framed in the political debate in Australia, is about the information technology – the digital underpinnings – that create and support wealth across the whole economy. Digital technology touches everything, presenting great challenges and great opportunities.

Which brings us to Senator Carr. As Innovation Minister (twice) in the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years, Kim Carr never showed any interest, let alone deep understanding of the either challenges, or the opportunities.

He has shown little interest in engaging with the industry, or understanding the technology or even appreciating its importance in every single thing we do.

Surely being a less than mediocre Innovation Minister (twice) does not qualify you to run the portfolio in opposition once you’ve lost government? I can’t be the only person thinking this.

Kim Carr was always more comfortable at the oily rag end of industry policy. But the manufacturers know better than him that success and survival is as much about data and digital than it is about pressing sheet metal these days. We have to be smarter.

The fact that he is a leader in the Victorian Left is not a good enough reason for him to retain the role. It’s a bit late to shuffle the deckchairs around now, but Bill Shorten is diminished as a leader for keeping him in there.

It’s not like there isn’t a roll-call of candidates on the Labor side that couldn’t provide the energy, enthusiasm and engagement that Senator Carr cannot muster. Jason Clare and Ed Husic are far better on broader innovation policy. And what about Tim Watts? He is killer on this stuff.

Yeah, OK, so I can hear some people saying what about Christopher Pyne? Yes, new to the portfolio. But give me a break. Christopher Pyne is an incredibly effective advocate. Yes he has had a very steep learning curve in the past six months, but at least he can think on his feet. He doesn’t need a script.

So there you go. My two bits’ worth.

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