Last night Wyatt Roy, newly-instated assistant minister for innovation, and the youngest person to enter Australia’s government ministry, spoke to the ABC’s Lateline program.
It was the first time that Roy, 25, has been interviewed live on television since receiving his ministry position, and he nailed it.
Lateline host Emma Alberici grilled the newbie on the future of jobs and the economy, as well as innovation and the shortage of STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) skills and education in Australia.
Roy proved ready, with articulate, intelligent responses on everything put to him. Sure, his handle on what it actually means to be innovative is expected of a politician in his position, but his apparent fluency and depth of knowledge will have plenty in the tech and skills sector starting to think things may be looking up.
On the digital age and what that means for the Australian economy
“We should be incredibly optimistic about our potential as a country to grasp effectively technology disruption, which is changing the global economy,” he said.
“And when we look at those opportunities… for example, Seek, which is an Australian company, it was founded by three entrepreneurs in 1997, one which who’d never used the internet before. It’s now a $6 billion company with 22 per cent growth rate and employs thousands of people. It is effectively turning those great ideas into the next big businesses of the future.”
On improving education in Australia to produce more skilled workers
Roy agreed that Australia needs to be doing more in the computer science field of education but also argued that business skills within the curriculum could do with an overhaul.
“John Key, the prime minister of New Zealand, has this great program where kids as young as prep are creating micro-businesses like creating a lemonade stall. And what that does is it plants in their mind this idea that when they leave school many years later, instead of going to the mines and making $100,000 driving a truck, they might start their own business.
“But there are great organisations like Club Entrepreneur and others who are supported – Google themselves and eBay are doing stuff to upskill our young people in this environment.
“I think what we should do is really support those people in their educational pursuits, so that we can make sure that we have that talent pool to create the new enterprises and the new jobs of the future.”
On the need to be a diverse government, and a diverse economy.
“I would hate to see a Canberra bureaucracy grab an innovation agenda in the curriculum.
“I would like to see not necessarily Canberra deciding this, but the support of private enterprise and those people who ultimately will create those jobs – those companies like Google and others helping give our young people these skills.
“I think there’s a lot of work being done here and the government can come in and support that but I don’t think we should be prescriptive because it will defeat the purpose, almost.”
He later spoke about the concept that Australia’s future is not dependent on one sole industry.
“Our future doesn’t lie in any one industry: we need to diverse our economy. And it shouldn’t. This is what we need to change from the past; we actually need to step away from ‘It’s one industry versus the other. It’s one group of people versus the other’.”
“If we are more innovative, if we embrace entrepreneurship in our resource sector and in our renewables sector, then we will see those future jobs growth. It shouldn’t be one or the other.
“I don’t think Australians should be tying themselves to one industry.”
On the Silicon Valley brain drain
“Well, they’re there because we haven’t managed to develop our start-up ecosystem in this country. And I think that there is amazing opportunities for us to do that.
“We have a lot of bright, talented people. We have amazing access into the Asian marketplace, where we have a billion people coming into the middle class. But we struggled with our culture… about embracing a entrepreneurial culture. We’ve struggled with the attraction of capital to this country.
“And we also haven’t quite got great co-operation between government, higher education, science and research. And I think if we can focus on those things, essentially so that in Australia we have great ideas, money and talent, you will see these great start-up enterprises coming back here.”
On creating and retaining talent.
“In the United States you won’t be able to afford them (talent) and they will disappear pretty quickly.
“But here, if we grow that talent pool through the things we were talking about and attracting some of the brightest people from across the globe to come to Australia, this will be an amazing place to start a new start-up business. And this is a global race around innovation and we want to be at the front of that pack.”
On the changing nature of politics in Australia.
“I think that we need to embrace the future. I think we have seen a different style of politics and I think the way that we discuss the big ideas and particularly economic reform has to change.
“I think that we, as Malcolm has said, need to respect the intelligence of the Australian people and take the time to explain things; take the time to lay out all the options we have as a nation and to really drive that future vision.
“You will see a very different style of discussion with the Australian people as opposed to at the Australian people.”