SYDNEY – Digital technology has the potential to transfer the delivery of government services, according to Paul Keating. But the former PM says the Turnbull Government is failing to grasp this, as is the Business Council of Australia, an industry association that comprises the CEOs of more than 100 of Australia’s biggest corporations.
Both are more concerned with company tax cuts and penalty rates than genuine reform by using technology to transform the delivery of government services, he said in an address to the Centre for Economic Development of Australia. (Presumably the hierarchy of the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), which is seeking to achieve just this, would disagree).
Australia, Keating said, is moving into a “more lateral, interconnected collaborative world” – one that does not respond or interact with a managerial hierarchy, where technology is already bringing down monopolies, breaking market barriers and increasing consumer choice – the latter sounding like an oblique reference to the arrival of Amazon Down Under,
But Keating added: “The wider phase, the grander phase, where even larger gains are to be had, is in the heavily government-influenced areas of health, aged care, education and consumer services.
“With the use of big data, it is possible to make the delivery of these services smarter, less costly, more tactile and more friendly to the consumer.
“The same artificial intelligence should be applied to the efficiency of health delivery, education, our road and transport systems, and the general operability of our cities.
“These are the reform horizons we should be concentrating on – and not the dross handed down from the Business Council or the Financial Review.”
He slammed the nation’s two peak business lobby groups, describing the Business Council of Australia’s calls for company tax cuts as “dull” and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry as a “national menace” for its attacks on penalty rates.
Keating pointed to new technologies like Airbnb and Uber as the “tip of a big iceberg”. “We can see the first big phase of this shift, with consumers responding directly to the smorgasbord of things on offer at their fingertips and, as we can see, information lowers prices,” he said.
Keating is said to have received the usual polite applause but there were few signs that his message had been taken on board by the largely business-oriented audience.