Thursday, 14 May 2015

Doing it differently: Shorten's Budget Reply future-thinking

OK so I'm not a big fan of the Coalition and I likened the 2015 Budget out of Tony Abbott to an orgy of eating essence of monkey brains. (Zombies ... get it?) Not only that but I think Opposition leader Bill Shorten has got it wrong when he says he wants to target some people's superannuation. (Class warfare and all that ...) But Shorten's Budget Reply speech this year was a real cracker. And believe me when I say that I didn't say anything on Twitter about Shorten "having a crack" (although someone else did, thereby efficiently taking the piss out of the prime minister for asking Australians, in the days following his Budget speech, to "have a go") even though it's not a bad line. Anyway ...

What I thought was brilliant in Shorten's speech was the way he took firm possession of the high ground by thinking in a way that privileges the real engine of jobs growth, which is entrepreneurialism. Shorten's request to allocate three percent of GDP to building start-ups and to establishing a dedicated government body to focus on this segment of the economy is outstanding, and that's in a global sense too because I think this initiative hasn't been equaled anywhere in the world to this point in time. (But wait a bit though because Shorten might have started a trend ...) Shorten furthermore plans to make university degrees in a range of disciplines - including maths, engineering, science, and technology - free of charge in future. Forget $100,000 degrees, folks. And he also wants to rejig the curriculum for secondary students to bring training in these and related disciplines into the classroom for them too.

It takes me back. In 2009 I started writing stories for Australian Anthill, a magazine aimed at entrepreneurs. Although the company did not pay for stories the arrangement meant I got to work with an editor out of their offices in Melbourne and I also got to receive notice of suitable topics and subjects for interviews for stories on a regular basis. So I got my stories published and I had access to expert help in making them the best they could be prior to publication. In some ways it wasn't an ideal arrangement but I was just starting out in the business and it suited me in other ways at the time. I wouldn't do the same thing today of course.

One of the first stories I worked on was about entrepreneurs and I got to talk with some really interesting people including Jonathan Ortmans, president of Global Entrepreneurship Week. Ortmans was bullish on the benefits that entrepreneurs bring to economies where they operate. "Entrepreneurs [generate] the employment and the jobs, they generate the economic growth. It’s really [entrepreneurs], ultimately, that have grown our economies over the last 30 years." That's right, new businesses create jobs. And that's exactly what Shorten was talking about tonight when he introduced the Australian public to Start-Up, his planned new body "to ease loan applications for new and prospective businesses struggling for capital", as the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

For someone with my experience in business, and specifically in the entrepreneurial space, it's all a bit too much to credit. Hot diggity! In fact, I feel so enthusiastic about Shorten's speech that it might be dangerous to get too close to me over the next few days or weeks. Be careful because I'm liable to start enthusing about Shorten's speech on the slightest pretext. Did I say I think Shorten has some good ideas? Let me tell you what I really think ...

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