Getting dudded on tech policy


James Riley
Editorial Director

It should not surprise anyone who works in science and technology that their interests did not form any part of the key messaging of either major party during the first leaders’ debate between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten in Perth on Monday night.

This is Australia after all. We don’t do technology in our political narratives. We prefer more comforting messages around familiar themes like boat stopping, congestion busting, and tax lowering.

You might think that at this moment in time, when the rest of the developed world is pouring new money into science and research to get ahead of the massive wave of disruptive change sweeping through all industries and all job markets, that Australia would get on board.

If we were to talk about tech and innovation for just one election cycle, this would probably be the one to do it.

This did not happen, of course. Mainstream cultural cringe about Australia’s science prowess and its local tech development efforts won the day. The message is, as always, we are adopters not developers.

And so to the leaders debate. Scott Morrison versus Bill Shorten. So many words.

Rather than provide a review of the words that were in the debate, I thought it would be quicker and easier to review the words that were not uttered last night.

The following words were not spoken out loud by either leader:

  • Science
  • Research
  • Technology
  • Software
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Machine Learning
  • Innovation
  • Commercialisation
  • STEM
  • Skills
  • Cyber

And then I got bored. For the record, the word ‘tax’ was mentioned 57 times. Surplus was mentioned 10 times. ‘Boats’ (as in ‘stop the’) was mentioned six times.

It is ‘situation normal’ in Australia. We are well within our comfort zone.

Snuggle in everyone, there is nothing to see here.

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