I had the privilege today to attend the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC) address by the Hon Mark McGowan, Leader of the Opposition.
The AICC is a dynamic business networking organisation that delivers exceptional events and promotes bilateral trade between Israel and Australia.
In his address Mr McGowan displayed his credentials and won my confidence as a capable future Premier of Western Australia. He researched his topic well, answered questions directly, and was not afraid to criticise his own side of politics where necessary (for example, advocating for GST returns to Western Australia with a floor price of 80% of revenue receipts).
Australia, like all democracies, functions well where there is a strong opposition to keep the Government administration in line. At a Federal level Australia has lacked sufficient force in opposition, and at a State level, Western Australia has also traditionally suffered. There is more to the task of opposition than supplying a personable leader, but at least the WA State Labor has instilled a youthful, personable, practical person at the helm who provides genuine leadership. His immediate action on deregulation of shopping hours, and his practical policy solutions aimed at cutting bureaucracy show that there is substance behind the rhetoric.
In his address Mr McGowan spoke with great passion and knowledge about the history of Israel, its technology and trade, and questioned what contributed to its economic success. He cited six reasons:
Adversity – Israel has to survive in the face of existential threat
Defence – Israel has developed technology for its defence that has led to innovation
Wisdom – He cited the traditional wisdom of Jewish people and the learning culture of the Jewish people as a contributing dynamic to the Jewish nation
Natural Assertiveness – Israel has a can do attitude, combined with an abrasive population, endowed with chutzpah.
Egalitarianism – Israel has developed a society in which everybody has a role and everybody counts.
Research and Development – Israel has a respect for science and technology and invests into this both publically and privately.
Following the identification of these points, Mr McGowan proceeded to compare the Western Australian market and derive lessons learned from the Israel experience.
In discussion with his audience, Mr McGowan was asked about education and skills development. He noted that in Israel the population has the benefit of military and national service, in addition to tertiary education, and that this contributes to the flourishing science and technology that Israel produces.
Indeed, in Israel many technical skills are developed in the Army. Israeli citizens commonly acquire these skills and even take time out to travel, prior to attending university. This allows for Israelis to receive their University education when they are a little older, and already technically exposed and experienced.
If Western Australia was to pursue an educational revolution, it could learn much from the Israel experience. We have a State crying out for technical resources, including engineers, high-end trades, infrastructure and construction specialists, and geological related disciplines. If these skills are developed and implemented through the workforce prior to tertiary education, then the value of research and development, innovation, and entrepreneurship is enhanced through the University experience.
In developing future policy and new ideas for a future Government, I hope that Mr McGowan is able to take into account the tremendous need for our tertiary education system to develop graduates that have the practical technical skills that will lead to economic growth. At the moment, many of our University graduates only begin their real education and develop real technical skills when they enter the workplace. Perhaps opportunities can be developed by recreating apprentice and vocational programs as a pre-requisite to certain University degrees? These could then be provided under an incentive structure to add real productive value to a tertiary qualification.
This thought aside, it is most gratifying to hear first hand from an emerging political leader about his future vision for our State. It was particularly gratifying to know that the challenges and experiences of Israel are considered within that vision, both as past lessons learned and future collaborative opportunities.
The voters of Western Australia can be confident that they can approach the ballot box of the next State election with a real choice in front of them.