There are no two better qualified candidates to debate issues of digital transformation and innovation than the Liberal member for Hume Angus Taylor and Labor’s member for Chifley Ed Husic.
And this is the reality. Both the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have made a commitment to innovation as a central narrative of policies directed at achieving a smooth economic transition.
Mr Taylor and Mr Husic are proxies for the leadership on innovation and digital transformation issues.
Mr Taylor is literally the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister on Digital Transformation and Cities, working through the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. He has carriage of the passion projects (among them open data and the running of the Digital Transformation Office) that Mr Turnbull brought with him from the Communications Department when he became Prime Minister.
Mr Husic is shadow parliamentary secretary to the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, and has specific shadow portfolio responsibilities Digital Innovation and Startups (and has policy input covering these issues as a parliamentary secretary to shadow treasurer Chris Bowen.
Aside from the leaders, these are the two men on which the Australian tech ecosystem should be focusing attention.
Regardless of which side of politics is sitting on the Treasury benches after the July 2 election, both Mr Taylor and Mr Husic will almost certainly be promoted in the inevitable reshuffle that will take place on both sides.
For an informed election debate on tech and innovation, you would have to take Mr Taylor and Mr Husic ahead of their senior ministers (being the indefatigable Industry and Innovation Minister Christopher Pyne and the very fatigued shadow industry and innovation minister Senator Kim Carr).
Mr Pyne and Senator Carr are good for an ideological punch-up – with Pyne no-doubt playing rope-a-dope to the slower moving Carr – but you’re not going to learn much.
Both men have stayed at the oily rag end of the Industry portfolio – Mr Pyne because he is new to the role and because manufacturing plays better in South Australia, and Senator Carr because he’s a bit of a dope.
The first innovation debate of the 2016 Federal Election between Mr Taylor and Ed Husic should provide exactly that, an actual debate about actual ideas, rather than an ideological flog-a-thon. It is a lot to hope for.
Both men are across the detail, from both a macro-economic and specific policy point of view.
But what do we know about them? Here’s a quick and inadequate snapshot of the two candidates, both rising stars on their own side of the aisle.
For the tech and innovation sectors, Mr Husic is obviously the better known (especially among startup advocates), for no other reason than he has been around longer. He was first elected to the parliament in the 2010 and appointed to his current as spokesman for digital innovation and startups immediately following his re-election in2013.
Mr Husic is the son of European immigrants, the first Muslim elected to the Federal Parliament. He is reflective of his western Sydney electorate of Chifley, and describes himself as “Blacktown through and through.) He was educated at local primary and secondary schools before earning a degree Applied Communications from the University of Western Sydney.
There are some weirdly symmetrical cross-overs between Mr Husic and Angus Taylor. Consider that Mr Husic talked about the Snowy Mountains Scheme in his maiden speech to the parliament, recalling the pride at both the scheme as a nation-building program, as well as the fact that his father (a welder) had worked on it at some point.
Mr Taylor also references the Snowy Mountains Scheme – but in terms of it being a government project that successfully used private contractors to ensure its success, and as a project that had a business case developed before construction began.
Mr Taylor’s referencing of the Snowy is because he grew up there, on the Monaro, within riding distance of Nimmitabel high on the dividing range.
Mr Husic has an electorate within the urban sprawl. Mr Taylor’s Hume electorate runs from Camden on the out-Sydney fringe to Canowindra on the western plains. Mr Taylor has portfolio responsibility for Cities while residing in the bush. Mr Husic lives in the cities, but has spent large amounts of time campaigning on innovation issues through the bush.
Angus Taylor is famously smart, although he is said to carry a down-to-earth easiness that eludes many high-intelligence people that enter politics. He is a Rhodes Scholar who went on to become the youngest partner at McKinsey.
Mr Taylor is new to the parliament, having been elected in 2013 to succeed the long-serving country Liberal Alby Schultz. His promotion to his current role came earlier this year.
The Election Debate 2016: Innovation Policy will be held at the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building of the University of Technology Sydney (the Frank Gehry building from 12 noon).
The event will be live-streamed via Periscope. Please follow @Innov_Aus on Twitter for details.
There are a limited handful of tickets still available through our Eventbrite page.