Greg Hunt’s comments in The Australian today that he is “redefining the idea of innovation to apply to all business, old and new” and that it “relates to existing businesses,” heralds the Liberal’s third innovation agenda in just three years.
First the word “innovation” was banned under Tony Abbott. Then it went to being ubiquitous under Malcolm Turnbull. Now the new Minister for Innovation is trying to steal Labor’s clothes.
The new Minister’s comments are not so much redefining as they are recycling Labor’s longstanding statements on innovation.
Labor has consistently said that innovation is about every firm, and every industry.
The previous Labor Government invested in a targeted suite of measures in the 2009 National Innovation Strategy, Powering Ideas.
In Powering Ideas our innovation agenda was to create a better Australia by “transforming existing industries and building new ones to provide quality jobs” (Powering Ideas 2009).
At the last election, we said that “innovation policy applies not just to a small section of the economy, but to every enterprise” and that the “challenge for an effective innovation agenda is to reshape the economy, industry by industry, to create the high-skill, high-wage jobs of the future” (Building Australia’s Innovation Future 2016).
While Mr Hunt seems to realise that the Liberals need a new direction after a bad election result, this change of heart does come anywhere close to restoring the $3 billion in Liberal cuts to innovation, science and research.
And any examination of the Minister’s remarks about automotive manufacturing and steel production show that a leopard can’t change his spots.
On automotive manufacturing, what Mr Hunt fails to mention is that it was the Liberal Government that goaded Holden to leave.
Independent modelling from University of Adelaide suggests up to 200,000 jobs will be lost and there will be a negative annual shock of $29 billion or more by 2017 as a result of closures – costing taxpayers far more to lose the industry than it ever cost in government coinvestment to maintain it.
And if Mr Hunt is so concerned about steel production in Australia and the future of Arrium, then he should immediately release the Anti-Dumping Commission’s report on the impact of Asian steel makers in the Australian market, which was handed to Government on 4 April 2016.