Minister calls on Australians to grasp opportunities to innovate

1 October 2009

Australians need to resist the urge to 'bask in the glow' of a crisis managed and grasp the opportunities for innovation and growth in productivity that are being offered to them, the Honourable Lindsay Tanner MP, Minister for Finance and Deregulation, said last night (30 September) at Deakin University's Searby Oration.

The Richard Searby Oration has become a significant annual event on the Deakin University calendar. The Oration marks the contribution made by Dr Richard Searby AO QC as Chancellor of Deakin University from 1997 to 2005.

Mr Tanner said Australians risked slipping into complacency now that the worst of the global financial crisis had passed.

"Our sunny optimism and pragmatic character are great drivers of national progress, but they sometimes leave us vulnerable to serious emerging risks," he said. "We are terrific in a crisis, but when the crisis is over we relax."

Mr Tanner said Australians needed to heed the lessons from earlier crises that had threatened living standards and competitiveness.

"Do we simply bask in the glow of Chinese demand and global growth, or do we work hard to compete and grow?" he asked the audience.

"If Australia is to emerge as a more competitive, resilient and vibrant economy, improving our productivity performance is absolutely paramount."

Mr Tanner said if productivity growth was to be revived in the Australian economy then there needed to be more competition and more investment.

He cited the Rudd Government's investments in infrastructure, education and training, and the national commitment to learning and innovation as initiatives "that will help to shape and enhance economic opportunities for decades to come".

A key element of the productivity agenda would be the National Broadband Network.

"Superfast broadband will change almost everything. Some things will change quickly, others more gradually," he said. "Just as the universal rollout of electricity transformed our society, so will broadband.

"The relative value of land and location will change. Transport dynamics will change. Business processes will change. Consumer behaviour will change.

"Every business will be asking about the threats and opportunities that broadband entails.

"We have a chance to generate a huge surge in productivity across the Australian economy. Our capacity to export services will be turbocharged. The efficiency of our traditional agricultural and resources sectors will soar. Countless small businesses will deliver better services more quickly and cheaply.

"At the heart of all these issues lies a simple psychological challenge. Can we embrace the new, discard the obsolete, and face the future? Will Australia retreat into its past pattern, luxuriating in the short-term income effects of commodity booms while the world changes around us? Or will we grasp the opportunities that are right in front of us?"

Download a copy of the Oration 31KB


Media contact

Rebecca Tucker
Media and Corporate Communications
03 5227 8568, 0418 979 134
Email Rebecca

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