Topics: National Innovation and Science Agenda, automotive industry, Royal Commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory
Our next guest is the newly-appointed Minister for Industry, Innovation, and Science. Greg Hunt, good afternoon.
And good afternoon Tom.
Can I ask you, a week or so ago you were the Minister for the Environment, and environmental science was something you did at university, you wrote a thesis about it, so you had some background in that.
All of a sudden you've been thrust into a new ministry – how do you make the change?
Oh look it's incredibly interesting and genuinely engaging. For me I'm fortunate because I'm actually returning to my base. Before I was in Parliament I was working in the corporate sector with McKinsey & Company – they're effectively like doctors for Australian companies, all about creating jobs. And so I was able to work in telecommunications…
Is that what it's about?
…in start-ups, in existing businesses, in allowing people to have new roles and better pay and better employment.
So that's my whole history, and now I'm returning to that space.
And also building on the fact that I've worked across industries in the environment for the last decade, but now focusing specifically on job creation – current jobs, emerging jobs, and jobs of the future.
Just on McKinsey & Co, I have a friend who worked there for many years and he said all they did was just have a standard powerpoint presentation and they just changed the name of the company at the front and the names at the back and charge millions of dollars for the advice.
Are you sure that that's not what you were doing?
Something tells me that they wouldn't be employed if that's what they were doing.
What I was involved in, and what I'm involved in now, is creating the conditions for protecting and enhancing existing jobs, building their capacity for increased income, and then creating new jobs.
PricewaterhouseCoopers says there's over 500,000 new jobs that can potentially be created by doing things better. I've seen firms doing this literally in the last few days.
Yesterday I was at Dulux, almost a hundred-year-old firm in what seems like one of the most basic industries, making paint.
They’ve tripled their share value over the last six years by expanding their products. They have a whole science and research, or R&D division, their making stronger paints, they're making longer-lasting paints, they're making more resistant paints…
No but Mr Hunt but that's all great, but what…
…and all of that creates manufacturing jobs in Australia.
Okay, but I mean how does that involve you? I mean, they're a private company, which is great, and they're doing their research into paint and they're employing more people and that's fantastic. But I mean do we need a Minister to come and tell them what to do?
Sure. Look, our job, and my job, is to try to create the conditions where Australian firms can more easily operate.
Less red tape, more in the way of tax incentives or innovation incentives.
So we have created an environment where we have incentives for research and development, and that's extremely important to job creation.
We've also put in place what's called a National Innovation and Science Agenda, and my primary role is to carry that forward.
And that's about making sure that new things are being done in firms. So let me give you another example.
In Hastings in my electorate I visited a firm, Allfarm Animal Health, on Friday.
They're effectively creating telemedicine for farm animals to get faster diagnosis, better treatment.
They've had support through an innovation grant under the Commonwealth, and 60 per cent of our productivity in Australia comes through doing things in new ways or what's sometimes called innovation. So it really matters.
You'll be trumpeting the NBN in a moment – that was a Labor creation. Now can I ask you, overnight there was this shocking revelation of footage from the Northern Territory of young people in the NT youth detention network, if I call it that, what looked like being pretty badly mistreated.
Now today the Prime Minister, your boss, has called for a Royal Commission. Is a Royal Commission the right response?
Yes it is. And the reason why is because this is, in my experience, arguably the most brutal and inappropriate treatment we've seen of young people in detention in Australia.
And certainly I think that it is clear that there was a systemic problem of abuse, that the treatment was not of standards that are simply acceptable in Australia.
It's just utterly unacceptable.
And the evidence is that there's been a long pattern.
Now, should this have been exposed earlier? Yes. Has it been exposed now? Yes.
And I've not seen a Prime Minister or a senior government team move as quickly on any major (inaudible) event.
We saw vision that was simply horrific but in response, literally overnight, the Prime Minister pulled together what was a deep personal commitment for him, a Royal Commission – so this is exposed and addressed.
Okay but I mean just half an hour ago I spoke to the Victorian Commissioner for Young People and Children, Liana Buchanan, and she said this has been known for quite some time – that last night, although it was on TV, is not the first time this sort of abuse out of the Northern Territory has come to light. So why has it taken a television report to do something?
Well I think this has brought it to national attention. I know that the Prime Minister has made clear that he wasn't aware, just as somebody in a very different area and different portfolio, for me this was just a deeply powerful revelation.
And having seen both the still and the video footage, having watched the program, it's a level of distress and a level of treatment which is beyond what I had imagined existed in Australia today.
And it's not acceptable, and you could either delay or obfuscate but frankly there is no excuse and there's no other way.
Very quickly, in a moment I'm going to speak to the Ford Transition Project manager – it just occurred to me today, and this is why we're talking about it, that we're only 10 or 11 weeks away from Ford shutting the doors on local manufacturing here in Australia.
In a year of course, Toyota and Holden will do exactly the same thing. Is this now your job, to try and help all these workers who are going to be chucked out of a job?
I do have responsibility in this space, along with the Victorian Government.
We have a $90 million Next Generation Manufacturing Programme, which is part of a broader $155 million program to help Victoria and South Australia with the job losses in the car industry.
Most important thing we're doing is the combination of providing pathways for those firms which are supporting the car industry to diversify, and job support and training for those workers who have been directly within the car industry.
Now, this is a decision which was taken some time ago, but it has a real human consequence.
So we have to make us – and this is the whole point of the idea of industry, and innovation, and science – as competitive as possible.
If we don't do that, in the end the firms won't survive and thrive.
There are many great Australian stories, but there are also stories where there hasn't been genuine productivity and competitiveness. In the end, it catches up.
So the answer is, we've got to recognise it's about making sure we give job security to every possible person.
Thank you Mr Hunt.