Innovation minister Arthur Sinodinos has hit back at criticism from Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes over the government’s reaction to job losses caused by technology.
“He said the country was dodging job losses as a result of innovative change. I don’t think we are,” Sinodinos told a National Press Club event in Canberra this afternoon.
Cannon-Brookes pulled no punches earlier this month when he said the government’s approach to the inevitable structural change caused by the digital revolution was “stick your head in the sand and pretend it’s not going to happen”.
“That’s a f—ing crazy way to handle it,” Cannon-Brookes told The Australian Financial Review Business Summit in Sydney.
Sinodinos argued the government’s innovation policies were working to “keep Australians in gainful well-paid jobs”.
“It is about helping your industry and business to respond to disruption to the market and stay viable in the future,” Sinodinos added.
Lessons from history
An Infosys study – which included 200 Australian companies – earlier this year found that 60 per cent of Australian workers fear AI will lead to job losses, more than any other nation surveyed.
More than a quarter of large local businesses – those with more than 1000 employees and $500 million annual revenue – said they will be making workers redundant and replacing them with AI technology.
Those in lower-wage jobs, suggests analysis by the White House Council of Economic Advisors, may be the first to suffer, with white-collar workers not far behind them.
“Disruption is the new constant. Many old ways of doing things are becoming uncompetitive and obsolete…either we acknowledge the change and deal with it or we risk being overwhelmed and disadvantaged by it. Our job as a nation is to embrace change and derive the greatest benefit we can,” Sinodinos said.
The government was “prepared to admit” the “side effects” caused by technology on the jobs market, Sinodinos added, pointing to the support government had given to those in the automotive industry.
Asked whether the jobs lost would outnumber the jobs being created, Sinodinos said that demands from the economy would change and workers would be focused on more sophisticated tasks.
“What we’re going to have in the future is a lot of people who have the capacity to identify products and niches because they will be trained, hopefully through a better education and training system, which we’re all working on, and they will be entrepreneurs. They will be working at the high end of services and manufacturing and the like, but they will be responding to a whole series of demands that we don’t necessarily see at the moment,” he said.
“That’s the lesson of history, demand changes, jobs that you thought would be there for a long time are gone and new jobs you never conceived were created.”