Australian Economy

Australia is a small but much-needed presence at Davos

Davos ain’t perfect. And the WEF needs to continue to listen and reform. Reasonable scepticism and critique are totally understandable. Much of this demonstrably fake news is made by for-profit clickbait centres, and all of it is being monetised by the social media giants. It can be used to undermine our democracies, increase tensions between nation-states, raise fear of climate action, and make it harder for businesses to do their job, at a time when we need them to grow the economy and employ people.

The solution to this problem won’t come from some new magical regulation, or new technologies swooping in overnight to save the day. All of the messages at Davos about these fabulous new innovations are that they are certainly coming, but it’s not so soon that we don’t have to take other actions.

For a while in 2020, there was an idea that the world would emerge from its COVID-19 cocoon in some new form of woke, nature-protecting kinder creature. What was left of this wishful thinking was finally flattened as the tanks rumbled into Ukraine.

The only way nations such as Australia will be able to capture the full benefits of a decarbonising global economy, attract the necessary capital investment, and diversify markets away from too much concentration on China will be to engage in forums like this. There can only be global solutions to global problems, just as there are global opportunities. Australia is a trading nation, and geopolitical tensions affect traders more than most.

Yes, Australia is underrepresented here, but it is a loss both ways. As proven by the high-achieving Australians in almost every sector here – corporations, civil society, universities, media – the WEF and the global dialogue stand to benefit from having the views of Australia in the mix.

Another example this week was Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, which is arguably the world-leading example of a regulatory agency designed to keeping its citizens safer online.

At places like this, the Australian government can make real inroads on its climate agenda, garnering investment and global attention on its energy transition opportunity. And in the other direction, all evidence is that Australia has got a lot to share with the world.

Finally, I have been coming to events like this for 20 years, and a decade of coming to Davos. Brand Australia has always been an incredibly powerful, loved brand, which, to be honest, dimmed a bit in recent years. But the warmth is still very much there, and I have no doubt that an energetic, creative, scientifically progressive Australia will gain a lot from greater international engagement.

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