Government offers threadbare copy of Labor’s innovation agenda

Today’s so-called competitiveness agenda from the Abbott Government is simply a package of reheated Labor reforms and reannouncements.


With no funding and little by way of new policy, it is clear that the Government’s real agenda is scrounging savings – not investing for growth.


The Government’s approach to building competitiveness is fundamentally dishonest: it has no credibility, coming on the back of $9 billion in cuts to higher education, science, research, innovation and industry programs.


The Abbott Government is the worst enemy science and research in this country has ever had.  It’s bad enough that Tony Abbott doesn’t have a science minister in his government.  But it’s unforgivable that it is intent on ripping billions of dollars from science and research in Australia, doubling the cost of studying science at university and ripping millions of dollars on average from schools all across the nation.


The five Industry Growth Centres announced as part of the competitiveness agenda are a poor imitation of Labor’s $500 million Innovation Precincts.


The Government’s agenda also presents a clear and present danger to other industry sectors and research programs like the Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs).


Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said that  “having CRCs as an adjunct won’t work”, and stated in bald terms that some CRCs would close – without giving any indication as to which ones.


The longstanding and highly regarded CRC program was already under a cloud, with an $80 million budget cut and a review that could see it abolished.


The Government’s ambiguous announcement that it will seek to re-focus the entire research budget with an eye to commercial returns will create huge uncertainty across the science and research sector.


The Government’s careless rhetoric will encourage researchers in critical fields outside Mr Macfarlane’s areas of choosing to reconsider their commitment to Australia at a time when we need them more than ever.


Labor believes that Australia’s future competitiveness lies in the skills and ingenuity of our people. This means putting in place policies that stimulate entrepreneurship and foster innovation.


So Labor of course welcomes the Government’s decision to ease restrictions on employee share schemes, which responds directly to what we have been saying about the need to assist start-ups and venture capital.


In March, Labor called for changes to the employee share scheme to better support new ideas and innovation and we are pleased the Government has listened.  If you’re an Australian with a good idea, we want it to be easier to attract talented employees, and for those employees to have buy-in and incentives to grow your business, to commercialise your innovation and to take your products to market.


But on crowd-sourced equity funding, the Abbott Government has yet again demonstrated it is all talk and inaction.  For some time the Government has hinted that it would make it easier for tech start-ups to access capital through crowd-sourced funding.


Today, there was nothing.  Labor has consistently put the need to support crowd-sourced funding on the national innovation agenda.


Australian firms and their employees – across all sectors – deserve better than this so-called competitiveness agenda. They deserve a Government that has faith in their future.



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