Policymakers should stop sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring the fact that “there are going to be a massive amount of jobs destroyed” from the digital revolution, says Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of Australia’s most successful tech company, Atlassian.
Mr Cannon-Brookes said the need to understand, adapt and be part of the new economy was critical, but lamented the government had been mostly silent over the past year on the topic of innovation despite Malcolm Turnbull’s “ideas boom”.
The federal government has committed to spending about $1.1 billion in the next four years to promote business-based research, development and innovation, as the economy shifts away from mining-driven growth.
Mr Cannon-Brookes said it was a hard sell to the electorate but that governments needed to show leadership.
“The best way to deal with structural change and people fearing for their jobs is to stick your head in the sand and pretend it’s not going to happen … clearly that’s the best way to handle a strategic problem,” he said facetiously.
“That’s a f—ing crazy way to handle it’.
Mr Cannon-Brookes, who was speaking at The Australian Financial ReviewBusiness Summit in Sydney, said changes were required now.
“We should be honest and empathetic and admit there are going to be a massive amount of jobs destroyed, there are going to be massive amount of jobs created,” he said.
“Are we ready for those jobs to be created, and are they going to be created here or somewhere else?”
By way of example he said 2.5 million people drive a car as a significant part of their job.
“Those jobs are all going away whether it takes 10 years, 15 years or 20 years, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
“Pretending they’re not may make people feel better right now, and the irony is the people in those jobs today … will probably be retired. It’s their children that will suffer the pain.”
He said governments have not succeeded in selling the innovation issue to the broader electorate, noting that it was barely mentioned in the election campaign.
“Let’s just say the dreams that a lot of people had a year ago have not been realised, if anything we appear to have gone in the opposite direction in terms of a national dialogue, which I think is sad.
“When was the last time you actually heard someone say that [ideas boom] let alone write about it in the last six months.”
Mr Cannon-Brookes believes getting education right is vital and that educating the workforce of the future to be ready for the future is an incredibly real thing.
He said we need to have industry, jobs and companies for those people to arrive into.
But he recognised that education is one of the hardest things to invest in because the payback is so long.
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