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A wish list for 2017

January 03, 2017
If you’ve been following GE Reports’ Big Ideas series (catch part 1 and part 2 now), you’ll have an understanding of what thought leaders in a range of critical industries have identified as top-of-mind opportunities and disruptions in 2017.
We also asked our eight big thinkers what their greatest wish is—no stocking fillers here—for the coming year. Such dreams, if they were to come true would change the game and lift Australia’s fortunes in this Year of the Rooster. So bring your influence and opt into the wishes that resonate with you.

As Data61’s stellar data scientist, Fang Chen says of her wish for an open attitude to open data: “This is not someone else’s job, it is everyone’s job.”


Innes Willox, Chief Executive, Australian Industry Group

There’s been a long period in Australia where policymakers have neglected manufacturing as a core part of the economy, and we’re now facing the crossroads of another industrial revolution. The idea of a manufacturing council, recently announced in the US to advise the US Federal Government on how to reinvigorate and strengthen the manufacturing industry, should be followed in Australia.

And an extra New Year’s wish: that Australia’s State and Federal Governments and major political parties put aside the partisan barbs and ideological crusades, and knuckle down together in 2017 to redesign durable, integrated and effective energy and climate policy.

Alison Andrew, chief executive of Transpower, New Zealand’s national grid operator.

Alison Andrew, CEO, Transpower (New Zealand)

In an industry like ours, our number one wish is always that our people go home safe every evening to their friends and family. We have made great headway in our safety performance in 2016 following a major focus on reducing the level of serious injuries for our staff, contractors and all the people that work on our assets. Our injury frequency in 2016 reduced 40% from 2014/15—a direct result of our dedicated programs and new approach to risk management which have ingrained a positive safety culture across our business.

In 2017, we hope to continue these efforts and see further safety improvements across our business.

Roberto Sabatini, Professor, School of Engineering, RMIT University

Policymakers should promote better integration of various forms of transport and should evolve environmental auditing/profiling of transport vehicles, supporting more sustainable operations. This will directly support a growing adoption of autonomous and connected ground/sea/aerospace vehicles and promote a more efficient global connectivity.  

Nolan Hunter, CEO, Kimberley Land Council

Our wish for 2017 is to see greater acknowledgment and value placed on Indigenous knowledge and projects, such as traditional fire management and savanna carbon initiatives. This would be reflected in changes in government policy to better value Indigenous carbon credits as well as more support for the Indigenous Ranger Program that delivers much of the fire management conducted in the Kimberley and across northern Australia.

We are also committed to exporting our fire management methods to help reduce wildfires and carbon emissions internationally. Australia’s first-nation peoples have a local solution to a global problem. We look forward to working with our international counterparts to demonstrate how we can fight fire with fire and deliver significant environmental, social and economic outcomes for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people across the world.

Dominic Price, Head of R&D and work futurist, Atlassian

Investment in STEM! Australia as an economy has survived and thrived on a mining boom, and a tourism boom, and more of a mining boom, and the minerals boom. We have been a producer, and as a producer economy you thrive. In the world of software, we have a choice, whether we want to be a consumer or a producer. Right now, if you look at our education system, I don’t believe we’re set up to be a producer at scale. Now is the time to invest in STEM at all levels, and equip kids with the skills they need for the roles that will exist in the future, not the roles that might exist today or last week.

Jane Burns, Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney Professor of Innovation and Industry

Recognition that the health industry, specifically medtech and pharma, is critical to the growth of Australia—both in terms of the leadership Australia can show in digital health with Australia, because of its incredible diversity as a large-scale ‘living lab’. But also an acknowledgement that the mental ‘wealth’ of our nation is an industry problem that needs solving and that Australia’s  bottom line, that is productivity, is affected when people are not mentally healthy and able to participate in work, education or the community.

Turbines on the rise at Ararat Wind Farm.

Andrew Bray, National Coordinator, Australian Wind Alliance

Policy certainty. The 2020 Renewable Energy Target (RET) needs to be extended and increased to give industry certainty to invest in new renewable-energy projects.

An emissions-intensity scheme could be promising as a complementary measure to prioritise zero emissions generation over fossil fuel plants. The Government could also regulate to phase out ageing power plants, or leave the states to establish their own emissions-intensity schemes.

State governments are implementing ambitious, but achievable RET targets and these will provide valuable investment certainty and ensure that each state snares its share of the upcoming investment boom. Supportive upgrades of the grid and electricity-market rules also need to be reworked to facilitate the future uptake of wind, solar and storage. Whatever the final shape of government policy and regulations, our greatest wish for 2017 is that they be stable and supported across the political spectrum.

Fang Chen hopes for a data-driven future.

Fang Chen, Group Leader and Senior Principal Researcher, Enterprise Analytics at Data61, CSIRO
My New Year's wish is that the government and the public sector and the user—the user could be an individual user or an industry group or a company—will work together to push a data-driven future for the country, or for the world. This is not someone else’s job, it is everyone’s job, and I hope people will have an open mindset to open data—not to protect their individual territory or paradigm. With an open attitude, we will be able to overlay many, many data sets from government, the private sector, the community … and we’ll make a lot of new discoveries, and identify a lot of new ways to do business with minimum cost and more profit and create a better future for the earth.

It’s not about you thinking, “I’ve been working in this industry for 30 years.” It’s not about you being right or wrong. It is whether the data supports your view or whether data brings you a new view.