“The last thing you want to do is future proof an industry against the future, what you want to do is embrace that future,” he said.
“Securing the future…will entail getting science and research at the centre of industry policy and producing tangible outcomes.
“We must get people involved in STEM because STEM is going to be the cornerstone of future jobs.”
Mr Macfarlane said students from kindergarten must be encouraged into these subjects.
On the topic of innovation and collaboration, Mr Macfarlane said industry and research organisations must interact more.
“Not enough knowledge is being transferred between industry and research and vice versa so we’re not transferring our research into commercial outcomes,” he said.
Universities and research organisations such as the CSIRO are “a potential source of innovation and productivity which is yet to be fully tapped,” he said.
Also speaking on the panel, Productivity Commission Chairman, Peter Harris AO said there are three key areas that must be addressed to lift productivity and improve economic outcomes – competition policy, social service delivery and infrastructure.
“The Harper Reform package must be taken seriously by the states and the Commonwealth,” he said.
“We need to address the social service delivery sector with an intent that goes beyond simply addressing fiscal burdens.”
Infrastructure can improve productivity but recent focus on cheap debt and low interest rates are not creating the right infrastructure investment opportunities, he said.
“It will not work effectively to be productivity enhancing until you get the selection process right for the projects,” he said.
Discussing the new Western Sydney airport Sydney Airport Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Kerrie Mather said it will be a game changer for Western Sydney.
“It provides a unique opportunity to deliver a full service airport that’s flexible and able to meet the evolving needs of airlines, passengers and airport partners,” she said.
“To capitalise on this opportunity it needs to be designed and delivered according to the world’s best practice embracing new technology and sustainability.”
Ms Mather said the policy environment is important for driving innovation and productivity.
“The lead time for the Western Sydney airport project provides an opportunity to examine the policy framework to support next generation airport facilities and operations,” she said.