Abbott Government’s threadbare industry policy

The Australian Financial Review report today on the Abbott Government’s long-awaited competitiveness agenda reveals how threadbare its policy on innovation and industry is.

This is a makeshift policy designed to cover up the fact that the Government has turned its back on heavy engineering and is concentrating on what it does best – exporting Aussie jobs. 

The Abbott Government has abandoned Labor’s 10-year innovation strategy, slashing about $9 billion from the Higher Education, Science, Research, Innovation & Industry portfolios, including:

  •  $528 million from science and research, with the biggest job cuts in CSIRO’s history;
  • $2.5 billion from industry and innovation, including the abolition of programs specifically targeted at commercialisation and improving industry-research links; and
  • $5.8 billion from universities and students, including imposing fees for PhDs.

And this has all been done with no consultation with industry – no transparency about what is being scrapped and what remnants might be left behind. 

With such high levels of uncertainty, it is no wonder business confidence is down.

It is clear the recent report from the Business Council of Australia has been a wake-up call for the Abbott Government, which has been so busy dismantling Labor’s 10-year innovation strategy that it has lost sight of the economic imperative.

In Government, Labor took the view that innovation and industry policy required a suite of measures, including sectoral plans, to ensure a broad-based economy which would not be overly reliant on fluctuating commodity prices.

That is why we committed $500 million before the last election to invest in Innovation Precincts to create networks between industry, university and researchers.

Now it looks like the Government is planning take Labor’s Innovation Precincts plan off the shelf to try to salvage its failing competitiveness agenda.

The Abbott Government’s attempt to give its policy a veneer of respectability by using the BCA report as cover is no substitute for well-considered and effective innovation and industry policy, something which is sorely lacking under this Government.

FRIDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2014


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