In­no­va­tion im­plored


Cockburn Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Martin Turner

ANDREW ‘Twiggy’ For­rest would have been a de­serv­ing Aus­tralian of the Year, ac­cord­ing to renowned de­mog­ra­pher Bernard Salt from KPMG Aus­tralia.

“I was very dis­ap­pointed he didn’t get up; I think he should have,” Mr Salt said of the prom­i­nent miner and phi­lan­thropist, who won the WA cat­e­gory at the Aus­tralian of the Year Awards this year.

Mr For­rest, the non-ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Fortes­cue Met­als Group, was recog­nised for de­vot­ing “his re­lent­less en­ergy to so­ci­ety’s most vul­ner­a­ble, tire­lessly end­ing Aus­tralia’s in­dige­nous dis­par­ity and draw­ing at­ten­tion to and lib­er­at­ing 45.8 mil­lion peo­ple trapped in mod­ern slav­ery around the world”.

Since the awards an­nounce­ment, Mr For­rest and wife Ni­cola made Aus­tralia’s largest phil­an­thropic do­na­tion of $400 mil­lion.

Mr Salt was speak­ing in his ca­pac­ity as key­note speaker at the Aus­tralia Day WA Be­ing Aus­tralian So­cial In­clu­sion Sym­po­sium: Build­ing So­cially In­clu­sive Com­mu­ni­ties, held at The Univer­sity Club of WA.

The de­mog­ra­pher, who made in­ter­na­tional head­lines with his tongue-incheek com­ments in a news­pa­per col­umn last year about young peo­ple frit­ter­ing po­ten­tial sav­ings on ‘smashed av­o­cado’, be­lieves it is time for a busi­ness­man to be named Aus­tralian of the Year.

“I do not want to see an­other Aus­tralian Test cricket cap­tain ap­pointed the Aus­tralian of the Year,” he said.

The Aus­tralian of the Year 2017 is bio­med­i­cal sci­en­tist Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor Alan Mackay-Sim.

Prom­i­nent busi­ness­men Dick Smith and Alan Bond won the award in past decades, while 2011 re­cip­i­ent Si­mon McKeon was a prom­i­nent in­vest­ment banker with Mac­quarie Group who was recog­nised pri­mar­ily for his char­ity work.

Mr Salt’s first choice from the busi­ness world would have been the late Paul Ram­say, chair­man and founder of pri­vate health op­er­a­tor Ram­say Health Care, who left a $3 bil­lion phil­an­thropic be­quest when he died in 2014.

Mr Salt said Aus­tralia must de­velop a cul­ture of in­no­va­tion.

“We are not en­tre­pre­neur­ial, not ag­ile, not en­ter­pris­ing,” he said.

“There is no fire in our belly. We have ben­e­fited from com­pla­cent pros­per­ity.”

Mr Salt com­pared Aus­tralia’s eco­nomic cir­cum­stances to those of the USA which, through the likes of Ap­ple, Google, Mi­crosoft, Amazon and Face­book, had cre­ated half of its top 10 busi­nesses in one gen­er­a­tion. Aus­tralia was es­sen­tially built on min­ing, re­tail and fi­nance, with most of our top com­pa­nies close to a cen­tury old and older.

“We need to cre­ate our own big busi­ness of the fu­ture,” Mr Salt said.

Part of the rea­son is at­ti­tu­di­nal.

“Amer­i­cans have ad­mired en­trepeneurs and reaped the re­wards,” he said.

“I think Aus­tralians are fun­da­men­tally sus­pi­cious of big busi­ness. Not every­one in busi­ness is a shonk.”

The kind of busi­ness own­er­ship Aus­tralians needed to as­pire to was based on the “right val­ues”: cre­at­ing wealth, pay­ing taxes and dis­tribut­ing to those who need it.

“That, to me, is the Aus­tralian way,” Mr Salt said.

Bernard Salt.

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