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Technology | Innovation

State of the Nation: Disruption is the new normal

Disruption is the new normal and Australia will need to maintain its flexibility if it is to adapt to workforce changes coming due to digital disruption, Federal Department of Finance Secretary, Jane Halton AO PSM has told CEDA’s State of the Nation conference.

Speaking as part of a panel on industry and workforce futures, Ms Halton said: “We’ve had the largest change in terms to trade for over 50 years, so have we been pretty flexible? Yes actually we have, but we need to maintain that strategy and discipline.” 

“The reality is we all need to think about reprioritising what we do, how we do it and indeed how we might finance it,” she said.


“The money that will support the workforce of the future will not just come from government, and there will be money from the government, there inevitably needs to be, but it will have to come from private sources, from the private sector, from educational institutions and dare I say it from individuals themselves.

“Industry and workforce futures will require a funding arrangement that is flexible, which covers all domains of our economy, government, business, education and a few other areas we haven’t yet thought of.

“It will need new emphasis and investments, absolutely, but it will be market led, because when it comes to picking winners, we know historically that doesn’t work well.

“Government will fund some things and the reality is we will focus on skills, some technology and we will certainly look at the structures of government and how we operate, but we will also look to work in partnership using the existing innovative financing mechanisms we know about but undoubtedly mechanisms that have not yet been thought about.”

NBN Co and Suncorp Chairman and RMIT University Chancellor, Dr Ziggy Switkowski AO said trying to insure against the future does not work.

“It reflects a conservative, if not defensive, mindset and is naïve in the face of the technology tsunami,” he said.


“Uncertainty, volatility and risk do lie ahead but we have to learn to leverage the situation.”

He said we must remain flexible and adaptable “especially in our work processes, in our labour markets and in industrial relations”.

Federal Department of Industry and Science Chief Economist, Mark Cully said while some jobs might be offshored, “knowledge infused jobs” would limit that number.

“There is the idea of agglomeration economies, which is combining very very smart people together, bouncing ideas off one another, which is kind of the idea behind Silicon Valley, (and it) has been one of the things that drives growth,” he said.

“So I think it is certainly true that we might see some jobs offshored, but I can’t see that happening in any kind of big way.”