Diane Smith-Gander’s Closing Remarks to CEDA’s State of the Nation Conference

Diane Smith-Gander’s Closing Remarks to CEDA’s State of the Nation Conference

Paul Girrawah House set us off on the right path - challenging us to be more respectful in our national conversations.

 The Prime Minister Anthony Albanese then kicked us off discussing the need for productivity improvements at the same time as wages growth and the need for innovative care solutions for the aged and unwell.  He talked up National Cabinet as a way to Federation reform.

During the day we saw many linkages between sessions - the climate and infrastructure sessions highlighted shared concerns around the lack of capacity for the delivery of large projects causing unsustainable delays and a crowding out of worthy smaller projects.  We were challenged to remember that we build infrastructure for outcomes not for its own self.  Even if it’s easier to cut a ribbon on a train station than it is on a digitised business register.  

The Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek reminded us of the need to recycle.  She agreed with Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts Secretary Jim Betts that there is a need for simple, quicker, more transparent common sense frameworks to speed approvals.  Later in the day we heard how the negative of this works in practice when MCi Carbon COO Sophia Hamblin Wang explained what Australia’s blinkered thinking on operating models, financing and regulation does to create the canyon of death for dynamic Australian startups. But isn’t that technology so encouraging?

We also heard when discussing cyber that uncertainty and inconsistency in regulation isn’t fit for purpose in a fast-moving world.  Too true.  One example is the tension between data retention laws and privacy expectations.  Something needs to give.  Over-complication needs to give.  Uncertainty needs to give.

Energy cost and transition is part of every sensible conversation on Australia’s future. Australia Post CEO Paul Graham spoke of his aspiration for electrification of this important essential service.  The leader of the opposition Peter Dutton made the case for gas and nuclear and industry representatives from Origin and Chevron were certainly with him on gas.  UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance Dr Mark Carney made the case for pragmatism around gas.  

ASIC Chair Joseph Longo certainly enlightened us on the transformation in disclosure and reporting coming with the energy transition.  He never leaves you wondering as to his view and he slapped green hushing down just as hard as green washing. Lack of disclosure is just another version of poor disclosure.  I would suggest you do not get on the wrong side of Joe.  Mark Carney reinforced that these disclosures are not merely for hindsighting but to identify and bring opportunities to the fore as well. Both Joe and Mark are focused on what’s coming out in the next two weeks from the International Sustainability Standards Board.  And I suspect they both agree that the standards should become national mandates.  If higher value accrues to lower emissions why would you not?

I found it useful to spend some time exploring CEDA’s dynamic capabilities report and hearing the very different stories of two very different enterprises both aiming for transformation - Australia Post and MCi Carbon.  

It’s always sobering to be told you if you feel you are getting a wakeup call, you are 15 years too late - but that’s cyber for you.  I think that the dynamic capabilities conversation had this flavour to it too.  And moving forward on both these agendas needs collective national action.  Another cross-session linkage.  But didn’t we all take a back step when we heard Dragos CEO Robert Lee remind us that it’s not possible to ask for five years experience in an industry that’s only three years old - sort of a practical step to addressing skills challenges!