Reform Agenda Series: Organised Disruption: Protecting Workers in the Digital Age

11 December 2015

Thanks to everyone who attended our forum on digital disruption. It was a really great discussion.

Here’s some highlights from Tony’s speech:

Artificial intelligence is expanding through the “internet of things” which allows machines to diagnose their own servicing needs and download software patches to fix them, doing away with the traditional servicing jobs.

This confirms a trend that old-fashioned car mechanics have been feeling for a while now: the digitisation of machines makes the man with the wrench much less relevant.

In the face of massive changes, this can go two ways.  Either we can go the low road – a community disaster in which millions of Australians see their livelihoods disappear from under them. That’s effectively digital Workchoices. Or we can take the high road, harnessing innovation in a way that spreads prosperity. 

Self-evidently, Australia should take the high road.Â

What are the constituent parts of a high-road approach?

Perhaps the most important step is to balance market power across society. This requires not just a set of minimum rights, but the renewed application of community values across markets.

A second key component is the retention of a strong social safety net.  We know that some disruption from the current digital revolution is inevitable; some people will be left behind.

Which brings us to a third aspect of our high road approach – how do we pay for this strong social safety net?  This requires a reasonable contribution on the part of the companies that are profiting so much from the digital revolution.

The great challenge of digital disruption is to work out how to capture the benefits of higher productivity, higher income and less working time but AVOID the worsening inequality that previous technology revolutions have wrought.

During the panel discussion, Tony Sheldon argued that the best way forward is to have a clear vision of where you want to be in 20 years time – what do we want our communities to look like?  That way, you can set a series of policy initiatives that fit into one framework.

Mark Carnegie ended the discussion by setting out in clear language what that vision could be – “We want to stay on top and stay fair”.

To read Tony Sheldon’s full speech, download the PDF below. To watch the video of the full forum click on the link above.