Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Team Australia!

This post is unfinished as of 23/04/16

 Seeing how the country you were born and raised in is seen through the lens of the international community is occasional a sobering experience. It may shine a light on our problems that other nations may have solved in parallel years ago, while simultaneously presenting waves of gratitude wash over as you truly begin to recognise how lucky you are with the opportunities and circumstances you have been afforded with as a citizen.

 My experience however, was one of confusion followed almost immediately by one of annoyance. The narratives told to our international neighbours and the narrative told domestically were almost at complete odds with each other. Were we talking about the same bloody country? Let me explain.

 I’ll start off with something intrinsically legal: Government regulation. The story I hear commonly is that government regulation inhibits businesses from doing their jobs properly, imposes arbitrary standards on our food production, manufacturing and services sector. There is validity to this, with privatisation of our banks freeing our financial sector to strengthen to today’s levels. 

 But the Australian story in China trumpets our strong and effective regulations. In a country where  systemic poor food handling practices leads to routine outbreaks of poisonous or dangerous foods, doing business in Australia is an iron-clad guarantee that our banks will not collapse, our food will arrive un-spoilt and that our loans and dues are backed up by the enforcement of the government.

 Secondly, our track record on clean energy is ironically raised. Glossy magazines of the wind-farms our current ambassador to the US called a “blight to the landscape” emphasise the strength and innovation of the Australian energies sector. Indeed at one point we were leading the world in photovoltaic technologies, cut budgets and lack of public support has unfortunately left this in the dust.

 Thirdly, we sell ourselves as providers of a world-class education at a more value-for-money price range than our British or American counterparts.

 Little do they know that our high schools have been getting their money siphoned off into private schools, deregulation of our university fees have been at the heart of our 





 Finally I want to address an issue close to home: Innovation. For the past 18 months, I have been fortunate enough to work part-time for what in my view is one of the world’s most innovative technologies. Once, I bumped into the founder of Google maps at work, and have witnessed some of the greatest technological minds speak at our training summits in the Google Pyrmont office. But this level of innovation is not indicative of Australia, and we are notoriously known overseas for taking the American stance of labelling Chinese innovation as an oxymoron: Isn’t that just a nation of copycats in the wild west of copyright protection and enforcement?

 In fact, chinese innovation has not grown and developed itself into this powerhouse despite its weak copyright laws. Rather, its historically weak legal structure has contributed to one of the world’s fastest growing industries in a national context, and it is apparent that the ever-important rule of law is fast catching up to be able to meet the contractual obligations to do business overseas: an ideal very much eyed by the Communist Party.

 Indeed, Australia has always pitched itself as an innovative country. In many ways we are; our citizens invented the notebook, the CSIRO invented plastic sheet banknotes, Aero-guard and WiFi (in conjunction with Macquarie University of course) and Google maps was invented and continues to be maintained in-house by a couple Sydney based software engineers.

 But as our government continues to sap money away from one of Australia’s most effective commonwealth bodies, a body that has contributed to the world in wireless technology and financial transaction regulations untold ways, it is not only Australia who loses in prestige and attracted royalties, humanity loses in lost innovation.

 Ultimately, this is a long list to digest and is inevitably interwoven with my own political views, despite my experience in working at what should be an intrinsically non-partisan arm of the government. But I do espouse this: That our key strengths, indeed what qualities huge populations abroad see Australia as, is slowly and purposefully being dismantled by this and the previous administration’s government. I am afraid that many things that we should be holding proud today may not exist given current trajectory. 

In my personal capacity, I hope change comes around sooner rather than later.