As an island of stability, rule of law is our biggest competitive advantage

In an environment where we are surrounded by countries battling the threat of COVID-19, Australia’s stability is a major selling point, writes Neil Glentworth

May 10, 2021, updated May 10, 2021
Protests and threats to the rule of law have diminished Hong Kong's status as a safe place for data (AP image).

Protests and threats to the rule of law have diminished Hong Kong's status as a safe place for data (AP image).

Our rule of law is the most profound competitive advantage in our geographic region. It’s environmentally friendly, a catalyst for new jobs, and yet we are allowing this chance to slip through our fingers.

The legal digital opportunity is leaving Australia behind; can we afford to ignore this anymore?

I firmly believe in the need to be a Smarter Australia and, of course, a Smarter Queensland. We must have a bolder vision as a nation and as a state that must transcend the constant political rhetoric.

We must seek to be known as #smartaustralia. Numerous public and private sector reports (too many to list) have provided evidence that my sentiment is not too far misaligned.

COVID has been cruel, but data prior to these events showed that our nation’s and state’s multi-factor productivity (a measure of the overall efficiency with which labour and capital inputs are used together in the production process) is not performing as we would like.

Worse still, our digital advantage is lagging far behind for us to remain competitive. Now with COVID and the future of work challenges (automation of unskilled job tasks), there is a need to think differently, to honestly ask ourselves, where are we going as an economy?

While Queensland should be rightly proud of its economic history that has got us to this point – agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, natural resources, media, finance and, of course, tourism, we must not rest on our achievements.

These industry sectors have some impressive qualities, but they are all under pressure to transform or be disrupted. Pre-COVID, profit margins were being eroded through automation and higher base costs; jobs will continue to disappear unless we are willing to change course.

So just what is #smartaustralia, and where are the new opportunities to be found?

Australia is a progressive democracy in a region surrounded by some very significant nations when measured by population and economic size. Many of these nations do not have the freedoms that we all take for granted and look to Australia with some envy – Australia is an island of stability.

Australia represents a ‘safe set of hands’, someone who is trusted in a region that is often deemed unstable by the superpower that is the United States. Our laws and our democratic process are, in reality, stable and fair.

Australia sits in a region of economic opportunity, and yet we are not genuinely leveraging our greatest asset, something we all take for granted – the rule of law.

With data now recognised as a highly valuable asset, Australia has an unparalleled opportunity to be one of the safest places in the region and perhaps the world to store data.

Whatever faults we may seek to find in a legal system, it works and is the envy of many. Australia is taking privacy and the ethical use of data seriously and continues to mature its data processes. It has the opportunity to be a ‘safe data harbour’ if only we seek to exploit this priceless competitive advantage.

Now is the time to redefine ourselves. As David Fagan asked in his recent book “Has the Luck Run Out” – what can we do to regain confidence in Australia’s future? I would contend that the answer is a bold vision, one that can make the best use of our competitive advantages and that will have the lowest impact on the environment.

With modern (western) economies being increasingly defined by services, the rule of law is an advantage we’re taking for granted. As a nation, we should be investing hard to secure our future as Australia transitions from traditional industries to that of data driven activities.

Our systems of democracy and law ensure that Australia remains at the frontier of data storage, a competitive advantage that may be lost should we fail to exploit the economic opportunity to becoming the safest nation in the world to store, transmit and transform data.

Neil Glentworth is the founder and chairman of GWI a data and technology specialist company. He is also the Executive Chairman of specialist public sector advisory firm Redman Solutions and writes regularly for InQueensland.

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