Qantas Innovation Day, Mascot, Sydney


Thank you very much Alan and congratulations to you and all of the Qantas family for the 96 years of service to Australia and the globe and your service to Australia in the way you lead with innovation.

Can I say to you my friends our success in the future depends in large measure on the extent to which we can continue to be an innovation nation. You know we talk about a resources boom and we’ve had a great resources boom, we’ve had a great mining construction boom but believe me, the boom that can go on forever is the ideas boom.

The boom that is limitless is the innovation boom because that is bounded only by the limits of our imagination and our enterprise, and I believe Australians’ innovation, their courage, their imagination; their enterprise is utterly without limit.

What we see around Australia today is the businesses that are creating the jobs and growth that are so key to our success, so key to the opportunities that every single one of us can share in, the opportunities that each of our children and grandchildren can share in. Those opportunities depend upon that strong economic growth. Everything depends upon it - government revenues depend on it, our ability to spend money on roads, on hospitals, on schools, on defence - all of that depends on a strong economy.

Which is why the Treasurer and I and our team, have laid out a national economic plan for jobs and growth and which sets out how we will achieve that. It is set out in the Budget. It is paid for. We live within our means. We know what it costs and it is funded.

The first item in our national economic plan is innovation and science. A policy that I announced with our Minister Christopher Pyne in December last year, because we recognised that if we are to remain a prosperous, high wage, first world, generous social welfare net economy, in this the most transformational century, the most remarkable times in human history, if we are going to do that, we need to be more innovative. We have to be prepared to change and adapt and be more competitive and productive and move fast.

We cannot be complacent. We cannot assume that the strong economy will always be there. We cannot assume that the jobs - the job growth of last month will be repeated next month. We can take nothing for granted. What we must do is seize the opportunities. Now when we talk about innovation, we as ministers and as a Prime Minister, when I talk about innovation we often talk about the startup culture of technology - these smaller companies and we've provided great incentives for people to invest in smaller start-up companies. We have. They have genuinely transforming incentives which are addressing some of the market failures in that sector.

We have obviously changed the law on employee share schemes so it's easier for companies - they're encouraged to offer their employees a share of the business, to give them a part of that incentive. That is particularly important for younger companies, for newer businesses. But what we also have to recognise is that innovation is not just for new companies. Qantas is 96 years old, 96 years old. That is the oldest operating airline in the world. Here it is with a culture as innovative, as collaborative as any of the start-ups you would find down at Fishburners here in the city.

It is because of the leadership that Alan and his team have shown, that they have been able to take a large, formerly government - owned - all Qantas employees used to be public servants and now you have changed that to a culture that is innovative, that is open to new ideas and we've been around the room today and we have seen how significant they are.

We have seen the importance of technology, whether it is using the NBN's Sky Muster satellite to deliver wifi on all flights to be able to stream, as Alan said, stream the cricket live, not to have to rely on the captain providing updates over the loudspeakers. And the way we have seen the extraordinary fuel efficiencies occasioned by the use of innovative materials in the new 787 - elements of which are built here in Australia. That is a genuinely global product that Boeing produces and substantial parts of it - the leading edge and so forth, are built here in Australia. 20 per cent saving on fuel costs per passenger mile.

Now everyone worries about how much they spend on fuel. Alan’s got, even in today's prices he has a big fuel bill - $16 billion business and about $3.5 billion of that is on fuel. 20 per cent saving per fuel per passenger mile. Think about what that means to the viability, to the strength of this business. That is the way companies, innovative companies continue to improve, but also it's important, as Scott Morrison said, to remember the role of small business.

Now again this is where culture matters and I pay credit to Alan and his team for changing the culture. It is natural for big businesses and this means - I include government as well, government is perhaps the biggest of all the businesses - it is natural for big businesses to want to deal with other big businesses. That is absolutely the normal course of events. So in order to make sure that a big business, a big buyer of services deals with smaller companies, you have to seek them out. You have to make it easier for them to deal with you and as there's Pepe – good to see you Pepe, you are a good example, I’m going to come to you in a second, what they've done here is made it easier for small businesses like Pepe's butter business or Botanica’s juice business and many many others to deal with Qantas, made it easier for them to sell and change the culture so that Qantas is motivated to buy and that is critically important.

Those small businesses have the ability to grow so fast. Talking to the team at Botanica Juices, cold pressed juices, that is a business that is growing. They are moving out to Cowra into regional Australia, jobs and growth in regional Australia, doubling their employees from eight to 16, that is the kind of growth we're seeing across the country. It is driven by the elements of our national economic plan.

We're supporting small and medium businesses. The businesses we've been meeting today, the small businesses today, will benefit from the tax cuts from July 1 if we are re-elected, that Scott announced in the Budget. They will benefit from them from July 1. Pepe's business turns over more than $2 million will not get a tax cut if the Labor Party is elected on July 2. They will not get one. They will not get that encouragement, that ability to invest back into their business and the ability to grow.

You know we are seeking to do the same with government as well. It's important that we transform government. Now from 1 July last year, so not quite a year ago, I established the Digital Transformation Office for the Federal Government. Governments I have to say have been generally very slow movers in terms of technology. There are notable exceptions I hasten to add but generally they have not been as dynamic as the private sector.

They have not been as imaginative. They have not been - and this is a point that Scott made that is absolutely critical - they have not been as customer focused. Business understands they have to be customer focused. Governments often forget that. Governments must be focused on its customers, on the citizens, on the people we are given the privileged responsibility to serve.

So what is the customer focus? So that is why we are with the Digital Transformation Office and with our digital services policy that we are announcing today, which builds on its work, we are making government services more accessible, easier to use, so that they're available on these devices, these devices that are the devices of choice through which we operate in a digital world.

We already have some exemplar services out there. Easier to register - much easier to register a newborn for example and shortly we will be setting out a full-blown ‘tell us once’ application which will enable you when you change your address to change it once and if you choose for that change of address to be given automatically to other institutions in government, other agencies in government and indeed other - perhaps your bank, your insurance company and so forth.

We want to make the Government so accessible that you feel, Australians feel, their government is as easy to deal with as the most efficient private sector online business. That is our goal. A lot of cultural challenges there I can assure you.

The challenges Alan faced here in this formerly government owned business from going back some years are replicated and to a higher degree to some extent in government. But what we are doing is changing the way government deals with you because we recognise that government's job is to serve you.

As I often say, we believe deep in our DNA and Scott and my and our party's political DNA we believe government's job is not to tell you what is best but to enable you to do your best, to enable you. That means we have to make sure that all of our services are as available to you on the platforms that you use as Qantas has made its services available to you as well.

So these are exciting times. They're exciting times for Qantas. They're exciting times for Australia. The opportunities will be seized by those who are innovative. Those who are prepared to embrace change. Those who have the imagination and the enterprise to get on with it and take it on.

This is not a time to hide under the doona. This is not a time to be daunted by challenges. This is not a time to be pedalling a long list of complaints. This is a time for imagination, for innovation, for competition and for that drive that I know and I believe all Australians know, that drive, that enterprise, that spirit of imagination and innovation that they have, which means that that ideas boom is the one that can go on forever.

If a 96 year-old airline like Qantas can innovate, surely all of us are able to embrace that culture, embrace that culture of innovation. Seize the day. There has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian than today. Thank you very much.