New Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Greg Hunt seems to be taking to his new portfolio like a duck to water, if his speech at Wednesday night’s Australian Public Service Innovation Awards is anything to go by. Hunt presented awards to different departments and commented at length about the importance of innovation in both the private and public sectors. Our tipster tells us that for the most part, the speech was top notch, until Hunt showed that he really was in the start-up vibe by saying a lot of things that made very little sense at all:

“So in the private sector the national innovation and science agenda is about attracting people to Australia and driving them through the system. It’s about attracting capital to Australia and within Australia for investment in new jobs and growing firms and creating those opportunities.

“And it’s about making sure that we have the science that is in place — the super science — whether it’s the synchrotron, whether it’s the square kilometre array, whether it’s the work through Questacon — the extraordinary Questacon — to give us the capacity to have the tools that are the roads of the future.

“They are, it’s the understanding of the way electrons and neutrons move, the impact that has in terms of creating new products for people. And so that’s what were seeking to do through the private side.”

Electrons and neutrons, yes. For background, only electrons really move freely around anywhere, unless you count the vibration and tiny “movement” inside the atomic nucleus, where neutrons are stuck with protons. Hunt also talked up innovation in his previous portfolio of environment, but we’re not sure it left attendees feeling that he really did have the credentials for innovatey-newness:

“The examples that I know of from my work with Gordon [de Brouwer] in the Environment Department: the work around reverse auctions and the emissions reduction fund was pioneering and is now world-leading.

The work of the threatened species commissioner is another example of doing things in a completely different way and it defied expectations and it has been brilliant success of engaging the public where you have the public sector as champion, and the public engaged and inspired by, you know, a brilliant young indigenous leader talking who is talking on behalf of all Australians.

“And then of course the work on the reef — which has been hailed around the world — through the reef trust and the reef fund. All new ways of doing things.”

That would be the Great Barrier Reef that may soon be on the UN World Heritage Committee’s “in danger” list, a label that Hunt campaigned against, and also had removed from UNESCO’s report on climate change. Innovative.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey