news Labor has criticised the government’s $1 billion Innovation Statement, saying that “it does not go far enough”.
Yesterday Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled a $1.1 billion suite of several dozen policy initiatives that constitute the most wide-ranging effort to support Australia’s fast-growing technology, research and startup sector over the past several decades. The policy suite has been almost universally hailed as a positive launch.
However, yesterday Labor issued a joint statement in the name of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Shadow Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Industry Minister Kim Carr, and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Digital Innovation and Startups Ed Husic, noting that it did not believe Turnbull’s plan went far enough,
Labor said it has consistently emphasised the importance of innovation, both in government and in opposition but, “we remain deeply concerned the Abbott-Turnbull Government has cut more than $3 billion from innovation, science and research initiatives since the 2013 election”.
The opposition party said it did welcome some of the measures announced on 7 December by the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, 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
- Improving innovation governance and fostering innovative new businesses by challenging them to meet government procurement priorities.
Labor claimed, however, that some of the measures “mimicked” its own policies.
“We will judge Mr Turnbull on how these measures are rolled out,” Labor said . “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.”
The three Shadow Ministers also welcomed “unhesitatingly” the government’s commitment to long-term funding for research infrastructure, which comprises almost half the total funding proposed in the announcement. 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, it said.
Claiming the government has only made commitments “around the edges” on boosting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills, including learning to code in schools, the statement said “it’s a poor imitation of Labor’s plans”.
It further complained about the lack of support for jobs in existing industries, such as advanced manufacturing, and that no mention had been made of the new industries that “would be fostered by the stronger venture capital sector Labor’s $500 million Smart Investment Fund would support”.
Furthermore: “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,” Labor said.
Labor said the government was merely “giving back a fraction of what has been ripped out of the system over the past two years”, including:
- $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
- Enabling continuous applications for the Australian Research Council Linkage Projects – but without restoring $75 million cut from ARC funding.
In the government’s Innovation Statement, the Prime Minister pledged to spend almost $1.1 billion over the next four years on an “ideas boom” that will promote innovation, ease business practises and boost collaboration between business and research institutions.
Key components of the plan will include: tax incentives for angel investors injecting cash into startups, $75m towards CSIRO data research, the creation of a Cyber Security Growth Centre, $15m towards a $200m CSIRO Innovation Fund, and $10m for a $250m Biomedical Translation Fund, to be funded in partnership with the private sector.
Also announced were an overhaul of the current ‘risk averse’ insolvency laws; possible “safe harbours” for company directors that could remove personal liability for insolvency trading; and the establishment of overseas ‘landing pads’ for Australian entrepreneurs.
For more details of the new measures, see our article here.