Startup News & Analysis

Wyatt Roy on losing his seat, his proudest moments and what comes next: “I wouldn’t change anything”

Denham Sadler /

After six years as the youngest ever Australian MP, Wyatt Roy is packing up his office.

Nearly a week after the polls closed, Roy conceded defeat in his seat of Longman, becoming arguably the biggest Coalition casualty of the nail-biting election.

Speaking to StartupSmart while in the middle of removing boxes from the Queensland office, Roy says the election loss has been a “character-building exercise”.

“I’ve learnt from the innovation space that if you are to really succeed in life you need to have some failure along the way,” Roy tells StartupSmart.

“The result will be very, very close but if the trend continues, the trend is not our friend.”

While the result seemed inevitable from early last week, Roy only conceded defeat last Friday, admitted that Labor candidate Susan Lamb had won the seat.

In a lengthy Facebook post, the Queensland native thanks his volunteers and supporters, and voiced his excitement about going back to “being just 26”.

“One of the great startup champions”

Roy’s disappointment is obvious, but he already has had a chance to begin reflecting on his six years in government.

“I’ve been able to take a step back and have a look at everything I’ve achieved at 26,” he says.

“I’ve spent one in five days on Earth as a member of parliament, and I think I’ve changed my local community for the better and particularly in the innovation space we’ve started a very vital conversation for the future of the country.”

After becoming the youngest ever person to be elected to Parliament in 2010, Roy quickly began advocating for the startup and innovation sectors, long before they were thrust into the national spotlight by Turnbull late last year.

According to StartupAUS CEO Alex McCauley, he is “one of the great Australian startup champions”.

He was one of the first Liberal MPs to publicly back Turnbull’s challenge of Tony Abbott, and was quickly rewarded with the innovation position in the new Cabinet, becoming the government’s spokesperson on all things startups.

Roy says his proudest achievement across his time in office was the role he played in the development of the government’s flagship $1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda.

“Sometimes it’s not easy to realise how difficult it is to get a reform package done up, especially in a short space of time,” Roy says.

“Some of those big moments have already occurred.”

Making a choice

The quick rise under Turnbull and uncompromising focus on innovation may have been his undoing though, with the regional Queensland electorate that Roy represented clearly not identifying with this message.

While also pointing to Labor’s campaign on Medicare and the rise of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party in Queensland, Roy admits this may have contributed to his downfall, but he doesn’t regret it for a second.

“You have to make a choice in politics: between what is right for the country and what is politically popular,” he says.

“Doing nothing is popular but there’s no point being in politics if you’re going to do nothing.

“We have changed this country for the better and it will continue with the Turnbull government in the future.

“I wouldn’t change anything.”

Roy was a loud voice in Parliament for the sector and although this may have had a negative impact with his local constituents, he says this was a deliberate choice to try to make a difference.

“Politically it is very popular to hide under a donna and do nothing, but the reality is that we live in a changing world,” he says.

“As policy-makers it’s up to us to rise to that challenge and seize the opportunities of the changing world.

“That’s not easy politically but it is absolutely necessary.”

The Australian startup community has voiced concerns about the lack of discussion around startup and innovation policies throughout the marathon election campaign, but Roy says he is confident that this will remain a focus for the newly elected Coalition government.

“Governments move at a slower pace than the private sector but now we have a very strong foundation to build from with the National Innovation and Science Agenda,” he says.

“I have no doubt that the Turnbull government will continue to implement those policies and move on to new ones.”

There are also concerns about how the rag-tag Senate, filled with independents, will act on these policies that were formally bipartisan.

“It’s important that people are reaching out to them and talking about the importance of innovation,” Roy says.

“Now is the time to continue the conversation, not shy away from it.”

What comes next

The young, now former politician says he’ll likely end up working in the innovation sector, but there’s one important thing that comes first: a holiday.

“I’m looking forward to starting the next chapter of my life,” Roy says.

“It’s still early days but there are amazing opportunities for anyone that wants to be involved in the Australian innovation ecosystem. Perhaps I might find myself playing a different role in the private sector.”

He’s also excited about the prospect of being involved in the space from outside of politics.

“I’ve always been incredibly excited and passionate about the Australian innovation ecosystem,” Roy says.

“We have so much potential as a country and to be involved in that conversation from the private sector as opposed to the government is pretty excited.

“The reality is that I’m looking forward to what will be a very different life. Let’s see what happens.”

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Denham Sadler

Denham Sadler is a former editor of StartupSmart. He was previously a journalist at the publication and has worked as a freelancer for the Guardian, the Saturday Paper and the ABC. In his spare time he likes puns and jaffles.

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