"I am not trying to bribe them or threaten them into something," he said. "We make decisions every day on where to put this project or that project. We do make them looking at the talent we have available."Atlassian co-chief executive Mike Cannon-Brookes had a blunt warning before the Future of...
“I am not trying to bribe them or threaten them into something,” he said. “We make decisions every day on where to put this project or that project. We do make them looking at the talent we have available.”
“Technology is already the biggest industry in the world, it is now well past finance and pulling away,” Mr Cannon-Brookes told the select committee. “We have a pretty big decision as a country if we want a seat on that rocketship or not. Do we want to be a primary manufacturer of technology or not?”
Mr Cannon-Brookes said Australia generates about 1 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product and to continue our wealth and prosperity it needs to be a primary producer of 1 per cent of the world’s technology.
“We are not even close to that today,” he said.
‘Blacksmiths of the future’
Mr Cannon- Brookes said the future of work is changing quickly in Australia.
“There will be massive job disruption,” he said. “I kind of hate being Chicken Little and trying to scare people but it seems to be the only way.”
Mr Cannon-Brookes said driverless cars are already on the road in the United States and will revolutionise Australia’s transport sector, with drivers set to be “the blacksmiths of the future”.
“I have four kids, I don’t believe that any of them will ever learn to drive a car – and my oldest kid has just turned seven,” he said.
Mr Cannon-Brookes said Uber and other taxi services and food delivery services would all be automated in the future.
“I would be less worried personally about regulating the gig economy in the next 10 years [but more about] is there going to be anyone working there in 10 years time?,” he said.
Mr Cannon-Brookes said history suggests that jobs which will be gained through technological disruption are not going to be filled with the people who lose the jobs.
“That led to lots of social unrest and lots of problems in society,” he said. “We can see that coming. I can tell you it’s going to come and its going to be very painful if we don’t plan for it.”
Mr Cannon-Brookes said lack of technology talent is an issue for Australia.
While Australian technology graduates are highly sought after, Mr Cannon Brookes said “our best ship off overseas.”
I have four kids, I don’t believe that any of them will ever learn to drive a car – and my oldest kid has just turned seven.
“As a country I think we want to be a net exporter of products not of technology people,” he says.
Mr Cannon-Brookes said the previous changes to the living-away-from-home allowance and more recently the 457 visa changes have damaged Australia’s reputation in the technology industry.
“We said to the global tech industry we are fundamentally closed to business,” he says. “The lack of access to experienced global talent is the single biggest factor constraining the growth of the tech industry in Australia.”
Mr Cannon-Brookes told the select committee Australia is thinking about skilled immigration “completely backwards”.
“We focus on overseas workers taking jobs from Australians,” he said. “In high export industries like mine it’s just not the case. Highly skilled experienced migrants are job multipliers at Atlassian. For every one senior person we import we can hire many, many more around them. Our success depends on our ability to attract the world’s best technology talent.”
Mr Cannon-Brookes said Australia’s skilled migration list, which priorities horse trainers over technology workers, “doesn’t make a lot of sense” and more support is needed for Australian businesses to attract experienced staff over the age of 45.
Mr Cannon-Brookes reckons the challenges that Australia’s technology sector faces will soon be shared by every industry in Australia.
“We are sort of like a bellwether for all the other people,” he said. “Every company is becoming or already is a software company, which means more and more of these jobs are becoming technology jobs.”
He pointed to NAB, which Mr Cannon-Brookes said plans to let go of 6000 bank tellers while trying to hire 2000 engineers.
“The first thing I think is where the hell are they going to hire 2000 engineers?”, he said.
Mr Cannon-Brookes said more education is needed.
“We have to shift our views on education from something we do when we are young to something we do throughout our entire life,” he said. “How do we enable life-long learning?”
Australia has the tools and experience to make this period of disruption less painful than the ones prior, the tech entrepreneur said.
“Change is hard, it is messy, it is scary, we have to learn from the past and focus on upsides of value creation and improved standards of living. We can either ignore this change is happening and watch it erode our global competitiveness or we can embrace it and try to lead the world. ”
Cara is Fairfax media’s small business editor based in Melbourne
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