Turnbull’s Major Innovation Has Been Reinventing The Term ‘Innovation’


OPINION: Ever the agile innovator, the PM has now ‘disrupted’ the term innovation itself. From slower internet to reviving dying ideologies and technologies, here is what Turnbull really means when he says the ‘i’ word, writes Liam McLoughlin.

Malcolm Turnbull’s contribution to the English language is innovative in the extreme. Not only has he been schooling Australians on the many layers of the word ‘disappointment’, his ability to force words to mean the opposite of their dictionary definition is beyond compare.

In his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language, George Orwell wrote “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”

There’s nothing Malcolm ‘Cuttlefish’ Turnbull likes more than spurting out ink. Just look at his disruptive, agile, mobile, dynamic, entrepreneurial, synergistic, technologically game-changing provision of opportunities in the nimble space of the ideas boom innovation, guided by his clear agenda of continuity with change.

In this week’s episode of “Malcolm Says What He Doesn’t Mean”, let’s examine the sophisticated semantics of the PM’s innovation agenda.

Many children, some breeds of dog and a few of the more intelligent guinea pigs will tell you innovation has something to do with being new, original, creative and imaginative.

Yet as Australia’s most innovative PM since Mr Stop the Boats will tell you, children are idiots.

In the brave new world of the ideas boom, Turnbull is even innovating with the word innovation.

The Prime Minister has created five new definitions of the term. In an impressive display of nimble dynamism in the linguistic space, none of the new definitions have anything whatsoever to do with the antiquated pre-ideas-boom notion that to innovate means to create something new.

new matilda, typewriter
(IMAGE: David Wilson, flickr)

1) Innovation As Clinging To The Past

Innovation is when you rigidly adhere to a dying ideology even if it means gross inequality, mass extinction, a disintegrating civilisation and a dead planet.

It means attacking the most basic welfare and worker gains of the 20th century, removing taxes on the rich and polluting, and dividing societies into a super rich aristocracy and massive underclass.

It means re-inventing that exciting new technology of nationalism and closing your borders to the world’s most vulnerable.

It means sticking with the fuels of that latest craze, the industrial revolution, and disinvesting in the renewable technologies of the future. It means destroying the Great Barrier Reef, burning down Tasmania’s ancient forests, and making Gina Rinehart really, really, really rich.

2) Innovation As Returning Some Of What You Stole

Really great innovation means giving back a small portion of what your government stole from different policy areas and then receiving lavish praise for being so innovative. This is a Turnbull government favourite.

In 2014, the Liberal government cut $300 million to women’s shelters and legal services. In 2015 the PM announced a $100 million ‘women’s safety package’, with only $5 million for crisis accommodation.

Back in 2014, the Liberals cut $80 billion in long term funding for hospitals and schools. Now Malcolm wants to return $3 billion of this funding for hospitals.

Since 2013 the Coalition has cut more than $500 million from homelessness support services. Don’t worry though; Prime Minister Turnbull has launched an innovative app called “Ask Izzy” which will connect homeless people. It’s pretty much as good as $500 million in basic services.

If you thought Malcolm opposed these cuts to services back in 2014, you were wrong.

Here’s the PM on that hideous Abbott budget: “I support unreservedly and wholeheartedly every element in the Budget”.

Yet every time Turnbull returns a pitiful amount of funding to these essential services, the media falls over itself to congratulate him.

The Prime Minister is like a dystopic Santa Claus who came down the chimney last year to beat the living shit out of little Marcus. Now he’s back this year to give Marcus a few Band-Aids.

(IMAGE: Alan Levine, Flickr).
(IMAGE: Alan Levine, Flickr).

3) Innovation As Recycling Old Programs

One of Turnbull’s more agile manoeuvres is re-announcing old ideas to make them look like new ideas. The government’s new Innovation and Science Agenda announced late last year was full of them.

4) Innovation As Taking Money From Vital Things To Fund Other Vital Things

If you want to see game-changing dynamic disruption look no further than Turnbull’s innovative approach to climate change. Although he is defending and massively subsidising coal and refusing to increase Australia’s embarrassing emissions targets, at least he’s moving money around to make it look like he’s doing something.

Last year he took $1 billion from the foreign aid budget for a climate fund to help clean up the mess made by the industry he funds with billions in subsidies.

More recently he’s been hailed a climate hero for a bit of deceptive politics. He’s taken $1 billion from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) budget to create the Clean Energy Innovation Fund, presumably because the CEFC didn’t contain the word ‘innovative’. The new Innovation Fund drip feeds the old money over the next 10 years because Malcolm doesn’t want to “overwhelm the market”. “What do we want? Innovation!! When do we want it? Really slowly over the next decade!!”

Meanwhile, Turnbull has cut $1.3 billion from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) yet somehow Fairfax loves the “PM’s Climate of Change”. You’ve got to hand it to Turnbull; he knows a thing or two about creative accounting.

5) Innovation As Reducing Innovation

Surely the PM’s most innovative idea of all is that more innovation actually means less innovation.

The government’s agenda means slower and more expensive Internet. It means 350 fewer climate scientists and it means a disaster for the humanities and creative industries.

In Orwell’s novel 1984, this slogan is emblazoned on the outside wall of the Ministry of Truth: War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Ignorance Is Strength.

With its enormous increase in defence spending, its full support of an invasive surveillance state and its policy positions on climate change, the Turnbull government could move into the Ministry of Truth and feel right at home.

Add the agile new slogan “Innovation Is Not Innovation” and you’ve got yourself a comprehensive outline of the PM’s agenda.


Liam McLoughlin teaches English, politics, and media, and writes a bit. You can find his stuff at Situation Theatre or on Facebook and Twitter. He still can’t decide which quote is more profound: Karl Marx’s “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness” or Stewart Lee’s “David Cameron and Ed Milliband are about as different as two rats fighting over a courgette that has fallen into a urinal. The main difference being that the David Cameron rat is wearing chinos, in an attempt to win over the youth voter”.