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Howard’s End: The Race For The Best And Brightest

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Australia plans to reverse its own brain drain by introducing policies to keep its best and brightest at home and it will change its immigration policies to become more attractive to bright people from around the world. John Howard writes.

If you're the best and brightest of immigrants or you're a bright expatriate, Australia needs you - urgently.

The Government plans to make major announcements including immigration through its research and development strategy early next year.

Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, yesterday foreshadowed changes in immigration policy to lure and keep foreign scientists in Australia. And he wants to "change the culture to stop bright men and women leaving and to bring them back."

What Australia needs was "a more open view perhaps in relation to our immigration policy," he said.

"I mean we want the brightest and the best not only to stay here, but also where possible the brightest and the best from around the world to come here. I think that's very important," he said.

Although the Federal Cabinet is split on how much in tax concessions should be given to stimulate innovation, some form of incentive is highly likely.

Mr Howard said, " The big weakness we have is converting the ideas into positive commercial outcomes."

"It breaks your heart to see these great Australian ideas sold off because nobody will risk investing in them in this country," he said.

University's are likely to play a large part in future research and development innovations with significant extra funding being made available.

Mr Howard said that a more open view, perhaps in relation to immigration policy, was needed. He now seems to favour the American-style flexible approach to immigrants with expertise.

Business leaders across the country applauded the moves with Opposition immigration spokesman, Con Sciacca also welcoming the push if Mr Howard "were serious."

I'm going to have something very important to say about innovation policy and that's a very important thing to our country's future, our science base, technological base, our innovative capacity," Mr Howard said.

Last week the Federal Cabinet discussed the R&D innovation strategy and will again discuss it at two meetings this week with formal announcements expected as early as January.

New Zealand is introducing similar strategies so competition between the two country's for "bright people" is likely to take on all the hallmarks of a rugby or cricket challenge.

Exactly what are "bright people" is not defined by either country.

But I wonder if people like old Sir James Wattie, who started one of New Zealand's most successful businesses, would also be left scratching his head and turning in his grave.

For those of us who the politicians may not consider to be "bright people", I offer hope:-

- the founder of Woolworths was once hired as a cleaner by a retail store owner who didn't think Woolworth had enough business sense to wait on customers
- Thomas Edison was always at the bottom of his class in school because he couldn't remember his three R's and his teacher called him stupid
- Marconi was chastised by his father for wasting time when he first began experimenting with radio - Zane Grey was told he had no ability for writing fiction
- the first time he played the piano George Gershwin was laughed out of the theatre by both the audience and his fellow thespians
- and Albert Einstein's teachers classified him as a dunce and his parents thought him backward.

I guess its all relative. E=mC2.

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