Labor welcomes the Government’s support for parts of the Opposition’s Innovation Policy today, but we remain concerned it does not go far enough.
Labor has consistently emphasised the importance of innovation, both in Government and in Opposition - and there’s no doubt it’s good for the country that the Government is starting to realise its importance.
However, we remain deeply concerned the Abbott-Turnbull Government has cut more than $3 billion from innovation, science and research initiatives since the 2013 election.
We welcome measures that reflect what Labor has long been calling for which, in many cases, mimic our own announcements – measures such as:
Increased support to promote science, technology, engineering and maths skills;
Tax incentives for angel investors and new arrangements for the Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnerships;
Support for incubators and accelerators and global innovation engagement; and
Improving innovation governance and fostering innovative new businesses by challenging them to meet government procurement priorities.
We will judge Mr Turnbull on how these measures are rolled out. As it stands, Mr Turnbull’s record when it comes to delivering vital infrastructure for innovation is a shocker. Under his stewardship, the NBN's blown out in cost from $29.5 billion to up to $56 billion, double what Malcolm Turnbull said it would be.
We also welcome unhesitatingly the Government’s commitment to long-term funding for research infrastructure, which comprises almost half the total funding for the package.
The decision to put research infrastructure on a secure footing for the next decade – including funding for the Australian Synchrotron – will be welcomed not just by researchers, but across the innovation system.
However, the irony of Christopher Pyne making this announcement at the CSIRO will not be lost on the 1700 scientists around the country whose jobs he previously chose to hold hostage to his plan for $100,000 degrees.
The Government has only made commitments around the edges on boosting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills including learning to code in schools - it’s a poor imitation of Labor’s plans.
There is almost nothing in this statement to support jobs in existing industries, such as advanced manufacturing and the new industries that would be fostered by the stronger venture capital sector Labor’s $500 million Smart Investment Fund would support.
There is no mention of reversing the $620 million in cuts to the R&D Tax Incentive that remain on the notice paper, waiting for another deal to be struck in the Senate.
And the new investments that have been made are nothing more than pea and thimble economics, giving back a fraction of what has been ripped out of the system over the past two years:
$127 million to incentivise industry-research engagement through Research Block Grants – which is less than half the $300 million cut from Research Block Grants in the 2015 Budget;
$18 million to change yet another program name in the innovation portfolio – restoring a mere 10 per cent of the cuts to Enterprise Connect and the Entrepreneurs Programme over two Budgets;
$75 million for Data61 over three years – compared with a $42 million annual reduction in ICT research funding with the abolition of NICTA, not to mention the $115 million cut from CSIRO; and
Enabling continuous applications for the Australian Research Council Linkage Projects – but without restoring $75 million cut from ARC funding.
The fact is that, under Labor, Australia had a 10 year innovation plan – Powering Ideas.
If Mr Turnbull really wants to be taken seriously on innovation, he needs to do a lot better than today’s statement.
For more information about Labor’s innovation plans, visit: http://www.futuresmartaustralia.org/poweringinnovation