How to improve Australia’s national resilience: GAP Summit

| January 18, 2021

The final report from ‘A Vision for Australia 2020’ Global Access Partners Summit, released today, examines the issues of national resilience and ways to safeguard Australia against future threats.

Recent environmental, health and economic crises have exposed Australia’s structural weaknesses as well as highlighting individual strength and community agility in the face of challenge and change. The GAP Summit’s participants – a select group of 120 Australian and international thought leaders, business and government executives, national and state policy makers, academics and social commentators – were invited to recommend sustainable, tangible ways to improve national resilience and plan a program of action for the GAP community over the next twelve months.

The Summit, held online on 6 November 2020, opened with an introduction by Catherine Fritz-Kalish, an acknowledgement of country by Dr Ryan Pieters and a welcome address by the Hon. Anthony Roberts MP, NSW Minister for Counter Terrorism and Corrections.

The Summit’s keynote speaker, Australia’s Ambassador to the USA His Excellency the Hon. Arthur Sinodinos AO, stressed the need for equality of opportunity and greater social inclusion to unlock the talents of Australia’s diverse citizens and communities. Better education and training will empowerinnovation to fuel economic recovery, while concrete steps to strengthen resilience at home and trusted trading partnerships abroad will create a more robust post-COVID world.

A series of thought leader panels then discussed leadership, governance and resilience issues. The Leadership group, chaired by the Hon. Cr Philip Ruddock AO, included Attorney-General of Australia the Hon. Christian Porter MP, Resilience NSW Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, and Israeli consultant Shirin Herzog. Participants were briefed on the key decisions made by the Australian Government to contain coronavirus, including the National Cabinet, border closures and proportionate lockdowns. Resilience NSW’s initiatives to coordinate the state’s response to natural hazards were explained in depth, and the factors driving Israel’s ‘start-up nation’ success were outlined.

The following session on Governance was chaired by Tanya Stoianoff of DXC Technology and featured Elizabeth Koff, Secretary of the NSW Department of Health; Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group; and Carla Christofferson, Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer of DXC Technology. The panelists traced NSW Health’s agile response to the COVID-19 pandemic, underlined the problems faced by businesses amid lockdowns and border closures, and revealed the steps one American tech firm took to support its workers as well as shift to online working. The importance of strong leadership, clear communication and a holistic people-centred approach emerged ascommon themes in these successful strategies.

The final session on Resilience was chaired by Stephen Hayes MBE of Gravity Group and featured the Shadow Attorney-General the Hon. Dr Mark Dreyfus QC MP and Air Vice-Marshal (ret) John Blackburn AO, the Chairman of the Institute for Integrated Economic Research – Australia (IIER-A). Participants called for a comprehensive review of Australia’s resilience in preparation for natural hazards and geopolitical challenges, and agreed that Australian leaders should adopt a long-term bipartisan approach, informed by an independent National Resilience Institute.

In addition to these sessions, delegates enjoyed a virtual demonstration of a digital platform for national resilience, developed by Gravity iLabs, and a slideshow from previous GAP Summits.

SUMMIT RECOMMENDATIONS

Speakers and participants offered a range of actions for decision makers, stakeholders and GAP alumni to progress in 2021 across the Summit’s three themes of Leadership, Governance and Resilience. These were headlined by the call for a National Resilience Institute.

National Resilience Institute

  1. Establish an independent National Institute for Resilience to conduct research, share data and advise on state and national policy. The Institute should:
  • Develop comprehensive, evidence-based resilience frameworks which involve all sectors, including academia, business and not-for-profits, as well as State and Territory governments to bolster national and community resilience
  • Facilitate frank debate, share insights across silos and disseminate information to both decision makers and the public to improve shared awareness of current and future risks to the nation
  • Learn from military preparedness strategies to drive cohesive whole-of-government policies to improve disaster planning and management in partnership with local communities
  • Capture the success stories of the COVID-19 crisis and ensure that national resilience remains on the political agenda beyond the end of the current pandemic 

Leadership

  1. Recognise the contributions of diverse cultures to modern Australia and increase opportunities for every citizen to maximise the nation’s economic potential
  2. Foster a risk-based, rather than risk-averse, enterprise and public service culture and incentivise the commercialisation of research, investing in new capabilities and frontier technologies, from hydrogen power to quantum computing, to create new sources of value
  3. Engage Australia’s diverse communities in an honest and authentic debate and win their trust and confidence by demonstrating care for their welfare
  4. Discuss long-term issues of national importance in state and national politics, with a view to agreeing practical and sustainable bipartisan solutions

Governance

  1. Maintain a National Cabinet of Federal, State and Territory leaders to accelerate and coordinate decision making on major national issues
  2. Develop clear communication strategies to combat misinformation, maintain public unity, and build the case for stronger resilience measures
  3. Allow companies to take an active social stance and support the wellbeing as well as productivity of workers in a challenging and changed environment

Resilience

  1. Boost domestic production of essential goods through preferential government procurement
  2. Add value in supply chains, modernise workforce skills and build stronger trading relations with allied nations
  3. Improve cyber-resilience, given the increased reliance on digital communications and growing threats from criminals and hostile actors
  4. Develop a more resilient mindset in young people through tailored educational approaches

The 2020 GAP Summit Report of Proceedings is available online on Global Access Partners’ website.

In the months before the Summit, GAP, in partnerships with IIER-A and Gravity iLabs, convened a series of stakeholder consultations through the GAP Taskforce on National Resilience. A number of IIER-A working groups also discussed an integrated national resilience framework for Australia and specific issues including health, sovereign industry, education, trade and energy security. Reports from these groups informed the recommendations of the Summit and will be published online in 2021.

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