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Transcript of interview: ABC TV's Lateline: 22 September 2015



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Interview with ABC TV’s Lateline

Journalist: At 20 years old, Wyatt Roy was the youngest person in Australian history to be elected to the Federal Parliament.

Now 25, the Queensland MP has also clocked another record of the youngest person to be appointed to the ministry.

The newly minted Assistant Minister for Innovation joined me a short time ago.

Wyatt Roy, welcome to Lateline and congratulations on your new job.

Wyatt Roy: Thanks so much. It's great to be here.

Journalist: What do you take it to mean when Malcolm Turnbull talks about the jobs of the future?

Wyatt Roy: Well, at the broad picture, the big picture vision, our country has had this remarkable story. We've had nearly 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth and I think we should be proud of that as a nation. And that's come from increasing productivity. It's come from economic reform and it's come from the resource boom particularly.

And when Malcolm talks about the jobs of the future, I think what he's talking about is embracing the change that we see in the global economy, diversifying our economy and making sure that we're more innovative in a range of industries, so that next generation of Australians can continue to see that rising living standard, increasing economic prosperity and ultimately job opportunities.

Journalist: So first we rode on the sheep's back and then we went into mining and so what's next?

Wyatt Roy: Well, it is a little bit like that. I mean, my family are farmers and my brothers work in the mines so I think that's a great story for our country.

But we should be incredibly optimistic about our potential as a country to grasp effectively technology disruption, which is changing the global economy.

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.

Journalist: So currently our Internet speeds in Australia are ranked 42nd in the world. Is that good enough?

Wyatt Roy: No. I mean, obviously we need to increase that. And I think there's two parts to this. It's not just the overall speed because you get a massive innovation dividend.

You get a very high productivity dividend if you can get people from very bad internet connections to quite a good connection, rather than that next step. And I know in my own electorate, we really have sort of an internet wasteland.

People don't even have a dial-up or ADSL connection.

And where we get that innovation dividend, that productivity dividend, is if we can get them an internet connection that's very good as soon as possible, rather than waiting 10 years in a wasteland where you can't do anything for an internet nirvana that's quite expensive.

And I think you've seen from the Coalition Government and particularly under Malcolm Turnbull speeding up that roll-out so that we're not waiting, as we were going to under the previous government, until 2024.

22/09/2015

Journalist:

So Scott Farquhar spoke about Vietnam, for instance, where eight- and nine-year-olds are being taught

computer science at school. Will the Australian curriculum need to change to take advantage of future opportunities

or, indeed, current opportunities?

Wyatt Roy:

Well, I think he makes a great point. And I think it's not just coding. I think that's very important, but I also

think it's actually business skills within the curriculum, or certainly within the education experience.

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.

So I think that we shouldn't be prescriptive about this. I would hate to see a Canberra bureaucracy grab an innovation

agenda in the curriculum. But there are great organisations like Club Entrepreneur and others who are supported -

Google themselves and eBay are doing stuff to up-skill 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.

Journalist:

So does that indicate that you think the curriculum is currently fit for purpose?

Wyatt Roy:

No, well, I think we obviously are trying to improve that and we've seen some pretty significant focus on

STEM in the higher edu- you know, in the year 11, 12 sort of market. I think that's really important. I think I we've done

some great work on that.

Christopher has spoken about the need to focus on coding at that younger age. But 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.

And 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.

Journalist:

Twenty thousand Australians are currently in Silicon Valley. Why are they there and not here?

Wyatt Roy :

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 and the Prime Minister has spoken

about this, 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.

And I know they want to. To give you an example: Sam Chandler, who runs a company called Nitro in Silicon Valley,

which is a competitor to Adobe, a very large company. When you walk into his office in San Francisco he's got

Astroturf laid out, he's got the MCG on the wall. He wants to come back here. I know they want to come back here

and I think now is a great opportunity for them to be part of what is a very exciting time for our country.

Journalist:

Realistically, though: if you're starting a new tech business you'd rather base yourself, for instance, in

even the US but, say, Ireland where a lot of tech companies now base themselves with a tax rate of 12.5 per cent. It's

a lot more attractive than basing yourself in Australia with a company tax rate of 30 per cent?

Wyatt Roy:

Well, we do absolutely need to make it as easy as possible in this country to start a business and I think

we have done some great work.

But equally, those countries have their own challenge. If you start a tech company in Silicon Valley, it is incredibly

expensive for rent and those sorts of things. And there is massive competition for talent in those places. You would

pay an enormous amount of money for talented people to be part of that.

Journalist:

But - I'm sorry to interrupt you because we're running out of time. But Scott Farquhar says the

competition for talent just doesn't exist here because there is no talent. They don't stay here because there are no

businesses for them to work at?

Wyatt Roy

: And this is... and he makes a great point. In the United States you won't be able to afford them and they

will disappear pretty quickly. But here, if we grow that talent pool through the things we were talk 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.

Journalist:

Now, Malcolm Turnbull says he's now leading a 21st century Government. From your perspective, how

will it be different to the Abbott government?

Wyatt Roy:

Well, 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 mean, you're in the media. You know how much the media environment has changed in recent history. And instead

of resorting to zingers or soundbites, 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.

And I think that you will see a very different style of discussion with the Australian people as opposed to at the

Australian people.

Journalist:

So I suppose we're not going to hear Malcolm Turnbull say "coal is good for humanity" and that it will be

the principal energy source for decades to come?

Wyatt Roy:

Well, I have seen Prime Minister Turnbull say that 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."

Journalist:

But I guess what I'm getting at there - and I think you understand what I mean...

You're being a bit cheeky, I think.

Journalist:

...is it about, is it about - you know, with climate change for instance and the way we talk about renewable

energy and the innovation that stands around that, that so many people think is tied to Australia's future?

Wyatt Roy:

Yeah. Well, I mean, let's talk about renewable energies. Instead of it being around an environmental

argument, it should be an economic one. 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.

And we can be very competitive globally when it comes to the renewable sectors, to our resource sector. We can be

more innovative in agriculture. I don't think Australians should be tying themselves to one industry.

Journalist:

Wyatt Roy, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to Lateline tonight.

Wyatt Roy:

Thanks so much for having me. Cheers.

[Ends]