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Where's the gold?

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Imagine if Australia’s innovators and entrepreneurs received the same media attention as sporting celebrities.

Maybe we would find Ziggy Switkowski being tested for caffeine ingestion before Telstra’s next annual general meeting. Or Coles Myer board members being cited for boardroom melees. I know there are a few members of the business elite that I would like to serve with a yellow card.

Too often our media is hypnotised by Australian sporting achievement while our entrepreneurs struggle along in virtual anonymity. What message is this sending to our children – the future professors, Nobel Laureates and business tycoons of tomorrow?

Why don’t most Australians covet commercial success like they do an AFL premiership or an Ashes win? We punch above our weight on the sporting field; a nation of nearly 20 million competitive with countries up to fifty times our size. But we also punch beyond our weight in scientific and technological development. So where is the support for a Scandinavianesque innovation sector? Where is our Silicon Valley? Our Bangalore?

Contrary to current hype, Athens’s most enduring contribution to the world was democracy and the concept of truth, not the marathon or a 100/1 triumph in Euro 2004. It’s time to get things into perspective.

Our national love of sport is not something to be quelled. Sport feeds our camaraderie and patriotism and (in most cases) fosters a spirit of fair play and participation. So why not hitch a ride on such a vehicle? Our best athletes could wear the web address of their favourite ‘start-up’. Or maybe Australia should tangibly embrace our ‘cleaver country’ moniker and launch the International Innovation Olympics. The possibilities are endless!

It’s time for government and media to unite and launch meaningful campaigns to publicise the excellent work being done by our inventors, entrepreneurs, scientists, exporters and academics.

When you’re watching our fastest, strongest and fittest citizens receiving medals in Athens, have a think about who else among us deserves adulation, and where we could go as an imaginative nation.

Peter A. Alderson

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