Abbott Government not so open for business

With only one week to go, details of the Abbott Government’s innovation support programs are still up in the air, leaving Australia’s business community in the lurch.

“The Government’s so-called Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme is supposed to be up and running on 1 July 2014, but there are no program guidelines, and only a vague outline of what it will actually do,” Shadow Industry Minister Senator Kim Carr said.

“The Government has put thousands of jobs in the sector at risk by cutting its support for innovation, SMEs and start-ups, and abandoning advanced technology companies and emerging industries.

“Yet the best it can do is to issue an eight-page discussion paper on 5 June, giving individuals and businesses only two weeks to respond, and then arrange a few public ‘information sessions’ where very little by way of information was provided.

“It’s remarkable that the Abbott Government took an axe to Labor’s programs but still has no plan ready to put in their place.”

This opaque and ill-formed Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme replaces a number of highly successful programs to support innovative businesses, in which Labor invested almost $1 billion.

The Abbott Government has slashed this amount to $484 million, about $100 million of which is for departmental costs.

The programs slated for closure are Commercialisation Australia, Enterprise Connect, the Enterprise Solution Program, Industry Innovation Precincts, the Innovation Investment Fund, Australian Industry Participation Plans, and Textile, Clothing and Footwear co-investment.

“These programs are all on the chopping block. Now the countdown is on to see whether this Government has any plan whatsoever that will even come close to filling the void,” Senator Carr said.

When asked about the Entrepreneurs Infrastructure Programme in Senate Estimates, in early June, departmental officers confirmed there were no program guidelines and the allocation of funding to the different elements of the program were “still being finalised”.

“This uncertainty does not augur well for an effectively-developed program and raises the question of how much thought has gone into it,” Senator Carr said.

“With less than half the funding envelope, I do not have much confidence that the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme will have any hope of achieving even half of the success of the innovative programs it is replacing.

“Half-baked policy, on top of short-sighted cuts to long-term innovation and industry assistance programs, will come at a cost to the nation’s economy.”

TUESDAY, 24 JUNE 2014 

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