Central Council

Virtual Policy Hackathon - Results

We’re very excited to announce our winning teams

 Joint first prize winners:

  • Accelerating Priority Transmission Projects: Nick Vernon, Agrata Verma, Bella Hancock. Mentored by Danielle Wood.

  • Fast-tracking projects to upgrade the Australian Transmission Network: Patrick Sweeney, Sam Edge, Elke Taylor, Jacob Keillor, Timothy Meng Junn Fong. Mentored by Kenneth Clements.


  • JobStarter - A HECS-based SME loan scheme for priority industries: Harry Tod, Tom Tod, Angela Vumbaca, Theresa Choy.  Mentored by Gigi Foster.

Congratulations  to all participants on excellent and thought-provoking proposals and we hope you found the experience enjoyable and motivating. We’d also welcome any feedback on the event that you may wish to share (via email), and would be happy to connect with you about how you can get involved with ESA. Contact Us.

Judges’ statement

Joint first prize winners - 

  • Accelerating Priority Electricity Transmission Projects and 
  • Fast-tracking projects to upgrade Australian Transmission Network

Policy hacks are most useful where the market or the government isn’t getting the job done. The hack that these two groups independently came up with would expedite priority electricity transmission projects to help ensure renewables can connect to the grid, something neither the market nor the government is managing to do quickly.

The Integrated System Plan released by the Australian Energy Market Operator has identified more than 15 projects that will be needed to make the grid work over the next 20 years. One, Project

EnergyConnect, which would link NSW and South Australia, is urgent.

The teams recommend shrinking the usual four to five year process of commissioning a transmission upgrade by underwriting the early stages of projects with Commonwealth and state government funds and performing tasks in parallel.

Alongside the ongoing benefits of a decentralised grid and lowered barriers to entry for suppliers would come jobs, needed right now.

We found the proposals to be practical, with clear and already demonstrated lasting benefits and to be ready for implementation.

Runner up: 

JobStarter - A HECS-based SME loan scheme for priority industries

Judges comments: While in normal times the panel would look askance at the idea of advancing money to startups that might never have to be repaid, in the present circumstances, with so few businesses willing to take risks, the proposed hack could help solve a problem.

It builds on Australia’s most successful public policy export, income contingent loans, at first introduced as part of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme.

It would provide a profit-contingent loan of up to $500,000 per annum to startups and early-stage small and medium sized enterprises, to be repaid only if the venture made a profit.

The funds would be set aside for priority industries in which Australia either had a comparative advantage or saw significant growth potential.

The panel sees dangers. By design unsuccessful businesses wouldn’t repay, and successful ones might be able to manipulate their reported profit to minimise repayments. But in the present circumstances even wasted spending supports the economy. If it encourages new enterprises and risk-taking, that’s a bonus.

General Comments

The projects we were the least attracted to were those that proposed developments that would probably happen anyway. We were similarly wary of those that suggested changes so big they were more of a revolution than a hack.

A remarkably common theme underlying many of the proposals was digital delivery, whether it be for matching skills to needs and education, online learning, telehealth or a change in the way companies are taxed. Although not obviously related to the coronavirus crisis, many of these ideas would have seemed far less realistic were it not for the role of the crisis in accelerating our takeup of digital technology.

The proposals convince us that there are innovative practical hacks out there. We are grateful to the entrants for bringing them to our attention, and grateful to the mentors for helping them draw out their ideas.

Alison Booth, Peter Martin, Jeremy Thorpe  

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