The weekend saw a shock loss for Labor as they were hit by a blue sweep through Queensland, less than desirable results in Victoria and a return to the status quo in Western Australia. So congratulations to the Coalition on a well-run campaign.
In amongst all of the analysis that will inevitably drive headlines this week, I wanted to highlight some of the Coalition’s policies and commitments that will impact the tech sector.
Gender equality in STEM
I am a big believer that the under representation of women across this sector must be addressed if Australia is to take advantage of the increasingly digital, technological and STEM-driven world. In the pre-election budget, the Government committed $4.5 million to promote gender equality in STEM. $3 million of this funding is to go towards an ambassador position, $600,000 towards a 10 year plan for women and girls in science (the details of which have not yet been delivered), and $400,000 allocated towards developing a toolkit for parents and teachers to assist with encouraging girls to pursue STEM education. I would ask this new government to look at further investment to encourage women and girls into this field, as I believe the benefits will be enormous.
The two Australian cities to make it into the Genome Global Start-up Ecosystem Report, Sydney and Melbourne, have both fallen in global ranking. So the question is what will the Coalition do to support start-ups? They have announced $100 million in funding for the Australian Business Growth Fund which benefits start-ups as it offers equity funding for early-stage businesses. They have also announced plans to cut small business tax to 25 percent and extend the Instant Asset Write-Off scheme until mid-next year while increasing the threshold to $30,000. They have injected $60 million into the Export Market Development Grant scheme, a great program for tech companies and start-ups as it provides reimbursement for export promotion expenses for businesses attending trade shows overseas, marketing consultant and visa fees and digital advertising costs for businesses with an annual turnover of under $50 million. These could all have a positive impact on the start-up community in Australia.
There has been a significant amount of confusion around R&D in recent years. Since the disappearance of the National Innovation Agenda, there appears to have been a further cut of $1.35 billion from R&D tax incentives in the most recent budget, not to mention four innovation ministers in three years.
Currently, Australia spends 1.88 of GDP on R&D which is very low on a global scale, especially if you compare Australia to high performing countries like Korea and Israel who commit 4 percent.
Further Coalition commitments to tech
· $19.5 million will be delivered to support the local space industry under the Space Infrastructure Fund.
· $156 million cyber security capabilities pledge, including new scholarships and recruitment programs.
Of critical importance to all aspects of the tech and business industries is innovation. Our country’s ability to change, improve and compete on a global scale depends on significant investment in this area. It is essential to drive job creation and create future growth.
I am not alone in believing that innovation and the advancement of R&D is one of the most important factors to our financial stability and growth. It guarantees employment, sustainable growth, social welfare and quality of life. With the results of this election solidifying Morrison and the Coalition as our leaders for another term, I ask that they use this opportunity to have a clear achievable vision that moves innovation up the agenda.