Scott Morrison was evidently inspired by his experience of New Zealand's No. 8 fencing wire ingenuity when he worked on the 2000 America's Cup campaign. How he thinks that might apply in an Australian context is not so easy to envisage.
New Zealand's smallness and its underdog status allows a kind of singularity of direction that has served the country well and at times very poorly - if you admire the unity that bolsters Jacinda Adern's prime ministership, think also of the devastating lack of dissent that accompanied Rogernomics.
It is precisely New Zealand's lack of resources that leads to its lack of rules and its much-admired creativity. And it is no accident that the creatives and the specialists across the art, academic, media and other worlds, eventually look elsewhere, often to Australia. New Zealand is an incubator.
Morrison recounted his America's Cup experience fondly on Tuesday, recalling the shabby chairs, the campaign headquarters that looked set for the demolition ball, while an entire country backed them in for the win and everybody's favourite supermodel came along for the ride. But there is nothing in the Australian landscape, bureaucracy or mindset that mirrors this. And in his Press Club speech, Morrison himself didn't attempt to stretch the comparison further than concluding that the New Zealanders made the boat go fast by dispensing with clutter; now he wants to dispense with clutter - read red tape, bureaucracies and rules - to make Australian businesses speed their way back to profitability.
There is, though, something instructive in the global lionization of Jacinda Adern, who, notably, is in a stable and successful Coalition with a conservative populist; deputy Winston Peters might sit most comfortably with the Nationals or the mavericks of the conservative crossbench in Australia.
As Morrison tackles industrial relations and skills training, the question now is whether he will dust off the old ideas that have bogged Australia in partisan, formulaic and repetitive arguments for years, or whether he can head somewhere new
The coronavirus is a crisis that anyone with a beef or a philosophy, a reformist or a revolutionary agenda, can and will use to advance their idea. The question now is whether Morrison will dust off the old ideas that have bogged Australia in partisan, formulaic and repetitive arguments for years, or whether he can head somewhere new.
Morrison's JobMaker plan (are these monikers wearing a little thin already?) to reform skills training is well-timed and well-overdue. When he describes the state-run hodgepodge of private and public providers, TAFEs and institutes and colleges, courses and certificates, as clunky, complex, bewildering and unaccountable, it's not difficult to know his meaning.
His reform push is not a virus-born idea - the Coalition has been working on it for many months - but the virus is an opportunity to accelerate the change and wrangle the states and territories onboard.
But will he take skills training in the direction that best serves the economy of the future against the forces in his own party who are wedded to the economy of the past? While Morrison told the Press Club he wanted to see "trade and skills jobs" aspired to rather than looked down on, the analysts are pointing to a different kind of skills.
Deloitte Access Economics tells us that the skills Australia needs are not those involving the hands, or even so much the head, but chiefly the skills of the heart. This is not normally what we think of when someone says vocational education, but Deloitte says by 2030, two-thirds of jobs will be intensive in these soft skills - caring, teaching, innovative thinking, conflict solving, customer service, listening, design, sales and customer service.
If that sounds woolly, Deloitte explains: "Tradespeople may work with their hands, but they need customer service skills. Programmers are focused on using their heads, yet many require the ability to teach and mentor others ... Robots are learning to understand and mimic human tone, but are less able to exercise emotional judgement or champion professional ethics."
It is still very unclear whether Morrison wants to snap back to the way things were and pursue old agendas or whether he's genuinely interested in a new way of living and a new way of doing business.
The signals are mixed. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg keeps reminding us that the conservatives will stick by their fundamental principles of personal responsibility, personal choice, jobs created by the private sector not government. But Morrison's rhetoric has shifted. He seemed to have enjoyed his tete-a-tetes with union boss Sally McManus as they fine-tuned the JobKeeper scheme and his fondue-party-style national cabinets with the mixed state leaders. Consensus is in and tribalism is out, he tells us.
And now he wants to do the same with industrial relations, embarking on a series of worker-boss-government roundtables between now and September to nut out a new system. You could sense the cynicism as Morrison spoke; how long has it been since consensus marked the Australian industrial relations system?
But Morrison was bullish. "We've booked the room, we've hired the hall, we've got the table ready," he says.
You wouldn't take a lesson on industrial relations from the deregulated, low-paid New Zealanders. But achieving a consensus will depend strongly on the heart skills that Deloitte identifies, and few would argue that Adern is a master of them, making her a leader peculiarly suited for the times and perhaps explaining the general acclaim.
Morrison might find this as useful to reflect on as the speedy boats, home-grown celebrity bling and "slaughter on the water" that so united that country 20 years ago.