James Riley
May 21, 2018

Wyatt Roy on innovation policy

Policy

Wyatt Roy on innovation policy

Wyatt Roy: Post politics, he's loving his new life in the private sector

Wyatt Roy is again being mentioned in dispatches, with his old Queensland seat of Longman in play courtesy of the federal parliament’s citizenship drama.

Thanks for asking, he says, but he’s very happy indeed in his post-politics role as the managing director for Australia-New Zealand of the Washington D.C. based artificial intelligence scale-up Afiniti.

For a young bloke who managed to get a lot done in the Parliament in relatively short time, Mr Roy generates oddly polarised reviews (of the unsolicited character assessment variety.)

Which is weird, because I’ve always found him to be very smart, personable and thoroughly decent. And by any yardstick, he achieved a huge amount in politics including shifting the needle on attitudes to tech and innovation policy in a very significant way.

Mr Roy was elected as the Member for Longman at the 2010 election as the youngest ever MP at the age of 20 and entered the outer ministry in 2015 at 25 when Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister.

He lost the seat in 2016 to Labor’s Susan Lamb, who resigned from Parliament this month caught up in the citizenship saga. Perhaps depending on where One Nation sends its preferences (Longman was the only seat in the country where One Nation preferenced Labor) the seat is certainly in play.

Politics, he says, and particularly being on the wrong side of victory on an election night “is a character-building experience.” The election loss was tough to swallow, “but that’s politics and life goes on.”

Ever the politician, he’s not ruling anything out for his future, but right now he has drawn a definitive line through an early return to politics. He is instead enthusiastically embracing his life in the private sector.

In this podcast, Mr Roy takes a look back at his time in the Parliament, discusses some of the on-going development of innovation policy, and talks about his role at Afiniti and the application of artificial intelligence software into day-to-day business systems.

“I was 26 years old when I lost [at the 2016 election],” he says. “One in five days I had spent on earth, I’d been a member of parliament. I’d served as a minister, and we’d done a big reform package [in delivering the National Innovation and Science Agenda.]”

“People spend 30 years in Parliament and never do any of that … so while I was there for six years, it was a very, very intense six years,” Mr Roy says.

The NISA was announced in December 2015, just a few short months after Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister. The agenda was developed at breakneck speed - a set of 24 policies spanning nine departments and portfolios.

Mr Roy says the fact that people seem to have forgotten where the tech and innovation sectors were in 2015 is a measure of the success of the NISA policies.

At that time, tech and startups were nowhere in sight, unmentioned as part of mainstream political consciousness.

“Innovation wasn’t even on the radar. Now it’s part of the conversation as a nation, and the policies are having an impact,” he says.

When he left the parliament, he was happy enough to take a break before taking the role at Afiniti.

“I was genuinely excited – and still am – about getting as far away from government and getting into the private sector and building a life there,” Mr Roy said.

Afiniti uses an AI engine to drive call centre optimisation by ‘pairing’ incoming callers with a specific call centre operator based on a set of criteria that demonstrate that they’ll get on, rather than a random operator simply taking the next call in the queue.

The company says it can deliver a 3 per cent to 6 per cent revenue boost.

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