Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Melbourne - Labor’s third wave of innovation policy; NBN

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

MELBOURNE

FRIDAY, 4 DECEMBER, 2015

 

SUBJECT/S: Labor’s third wave of innovation policy; NBN; Mal Brough

ED HUSIC, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Welcome everyone and if I can say first thank you very much to Inspire9 here in Richmond. It is a place where you can see right before your eyes the jobs of the future being generated and the future economic prosperity for the country being generated through the work that's been done on two levels here. A lot of committed people that are here are supporting early stage innovation in this nation and we're very grateful for the chance to be able to release here our third wave of policies designed to encourage early stage innovation in this country and also make sure that Australia can be at the front of the pack rather than be a mediocre left behind when it comes to early stage innovation. We know talking with people here, particularly in Melbourne which has really strengthened its presence in terms of the overall network of early stage innovation in Australia and I dare say in the globe. But we know from the people here there’s a lot of energy, talent and commitment to be able to create viable, strong enterprises that will again generate the jobs we need to see in the future and if we want Australia to do well in this, what we need to do is ensure that we smooth out a few pathways to make that happen.

In what Bill Shorten’s about to announce today you'll see linkages through all three ways of announcements that we've made. Linkages that show you how we're trying to skill up Australians and get rid of the talent hurdles that are constraining us from being the best we can in early stage innovation. Freeing up money, capital that can support good ideas, again we will be making an announcement today that is design to act as a magnet to draw in more angel investors in this space who can support early stage innovators and enterprises get stronger and be able to generate their own wealth and jobs into the future. So of the regulatory reforms we think are important. Some of the things we think will help us build a greater presents on the world stage as well we'll announce today. But more importantly than anything else you can take out of our presence here today and our commitment to three ways of reform, which I might add just like innovation is not a finite journey from A to B, our policy development in this space will continue as well and you will hear more from Labor in terms of policy in this area because from our point of view especially as Labor representatives we feel deeply in our heart the need, the urgency, the imperative of being able to get this right.

To be able to generate the jobs, the wealth that can sustain people in the future. Not everyone is going to start a startup but they may well be employed by one. We need to make sure that those green shoots emerge and emerge broadly and that is why we are so committed in this policy development process that putting these ideas forward and finally making sure we have a culture in this country that supports those people that are prepared to embrace a bit of risk, take on a challenge, start their own enterprise and having various parts of the community talk about it, the business community, the broader community but important from the political level prioritising this as part of a national endeavour that will ensure that we have all parts of our country cities and regions committed to national  innovation. So it gives me great pride to introduce Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition who will reveal the scope of our third wave of innovation policies. Thanks again Bill.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Ed.  Good morning everyone. It’s great to be here at Inspire9. I was just thinking actually Richmond Railway Station’s behind us is when I was a school boy I use to get the train into Richmond and change trains here. So I remember these buildings from 30 years ago, then they were doing manufacturing for the textile industry. Perhaps then people thought that they had a job for life as we now know people don't have a job for life anymore. So what it requires to help create the jobs of the future is to have the policies that encourage the new businesses and the startups and the new ideas so that's why we're here today, because just as this building has changed its function and we've got some fantastic new jobs of the future being created. The people who are bold and optimistic enough to back in their ideas for the future need a political party and a government bold and optimistic enough to priorities the jobs of the future. That's why I'm pleased to be here are with so many of my shadow colleagues who will each explain to you in detail and part of what I’m going to announce. Because Labor's the party of jobs, not only do we want to support existing jobs, we want to create new jobs for future generations of young Australians and the future jobs and some large part being created here.

Now Labor, since my Budget reply speech in May, have been talk about the future and talking about innovation. We've provided no less than 17 individual policies which go towards creating jobs through innovation and today we're announcing a further set of policy initiatives. I'm pleased today to be announcing that a Labor Government would ensure that we have regional innovation hubs. What this means in a very short form is we understand that currently two-thirds of all the startups and innovations are starting in Sydney but Labor has a vision of Australia which is more than the three large east coast cities of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. We get there's great ideas in the regions of Australia so we want to provide the opportunity for clever people to back in their ideas for regional innovation hubs right through Australia.

Our second proposal today is that we've had a good look around what is the best practice in the world so we're proposing to create Innovate Australia. It will bring together all of the various diffuse initiatives under one independent agency. Now, we've seen this model work in the UK. If it's the best in the world then it's only just good enough for Australia. We're going to match Innovate Australia and regional innovation hubs with start-up capital as well. As a nation, we're pretty smart and perhaps we don't talk our own book up enough but the issue is that at the moment we're very good at publishing some of the best quality research papers in the world. But quite often what we need to do is to be able to give people their good ideas, the chance to commercialise their ideas, to translate from idea, translate and commercialise and so what we're proposing to do is help those valuable angel investors and we've got some here today who are going to talk about their experiences. What Labor's proposing is that we want to back in our angel investors with support, the early stage venture capital initiatives, so Labor's going to put some smart money, because it's taxpayer money, we want to make sure it certainly goes to the right purposes but if we can attract angel investment and help solidify a pipeline of private sector money to back in the ideas, translating them to the jobs of the future, that is certainly what we want to do. We also want to tackle this problem and I guess it says something for Australians. Do you know currently we would invest more money on the Melbourne Cup in one day than we do in terms of our angel investment in Australia. So that's why we want to back in those angel investors and encourage more of them to come to the party so we can create jobs.

The final thing which we want to do is all again about being part of the wider world and wider eco systems of innovation throughout the world. We are going to create the first of a series of launching pads. At the moment there's 20,000 smart Australians who've gone to Silicon Valley. Now, we want to give them a chance to have a bigger footprint in Silicon Valley and develop their ideas with the aim one day of them coming back to Australia so we're proposing to set up a landing pad. And we're going to, basically we've got an aspiration to help turn Silicon Valley into Kangaroo Valley, where we get the Australians who are working there and we help back them in so they can, you know, achieve what they're going to on an even bigger stage and then that provides them the opportunity to come back and reinvest in Australia.

What we've outlined today are four common-sense measures which we've been testing through our consultations led by some of the Shadow Ministers who are with me today. This reflects the best knowledge of the private sector and some of the people here today who've helped provide us with our ideas. What we are doing, is we think Australia can take on the world but we need do it with a series of smart policies, we also want to do it in such a way that we create jobs. For us, innovation is not a buzz word or not an investment banking strategy. For us it's about the creation of jobs and its providing opportunity to our younger people and people in the regions to be part of Australia's very, very positive future. I would like to hand over to Kim Carr to talk further about the propositions in specific detail.

SENATOR KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, RESEARCH, INNOVATION AND INDUSTRY: Thank you very much, Bill. The central concept of innovation at its centre is the principle of creativity. We see here today an example of just how creative Australians can be. We have a vision of innovation which goes right across the country. We are in the business of transforming the Australian economy, modernising the Australian economy, innovating our way to prosperity and transforming every firm in this nation. Our policies are aimed at achieving that result. Today we're launching the latest round of those policies. We do so in the context of a Senate inquiry which launched its report yesterday, which highlighted - took two years’ work, consultation across the nation - highlighted just how much damage has been done to our innovation system by the $3 billion worth of cuts that the conservative government in Canberra has imposed upon the innovation system.

So when Malcolm Turnbull brings bound his statement on Monday, the key test for him will be will he restore the $3 billion of cuts to the innovation system that has been suffered as a result of this Government's policies? We have, at the centre of our report yesterday, highlighted the need to have continuity in policy, to ensure that we have stability of policy, that people have security knowing that the Government will stand behind them when they're seeking to build the new capabilities that this nation needs to secure the jobs for the future. And one of those areas of course is the need to have a proper Government agency that can coordinate Government programs and that's why we're proposing to establish Innovate Australia. Now, this will be built upon the Innovation Board.

The Innovation Board of course is a central agency in the Department of Industry at the moment. This is a measure of just how much has happened in this country that under the conservatives this board, made up of 15 people, had 10 vacancies as little as six weeks ago. Today it has eight of the 15 spots on the board vacant. It's a Government that's sought to abolish the Innovation Board. As very, very recently Minister Macfarlane went to that board and told them their time was up. He was advised on that occasion there was actually legislation underpinning the existence of the board. They didn't even understand that. So we have a situation where the Government has talked up innovation very, very recently but has acted to destroy many of the innovation capacities in this country with their $3 billion of cuts. We are in the business of rebuilding capabilities which were based on the principals we outlined in Empowering Ideas, which was a 10-year innovation strategy established under the Labor Government. We want to be able to help people with their creativity, transform the firms that exist in this country, as well as establish new firms and create the jobs of the future so that everybody has the capacity to enjoy the prosperity that this nation can afford. Thank you.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS:  Thanks very much, Bill, Ed and Kim. This is all about building the jobs of the future and building the businesses of the future and as we've developed these policies over the last two years we've identified two key overwhelming themes and that is that we need to develop more skilled workers and we also need more money to fund good ideas to help develop these great businesses. In the area of skills the challenge is obvious. Over the course of the next 10 to 20 years, 40 per cent of the jobs we do today will disappear, they'll be done instead by computers and new jobs will be created but those new jobs will require different skills. Overwhelmingly STEM skills, science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills and we're not developing enough people through our TAFEs, and our universities and our high schools with those skills and that's why you've seen through the first wave and the second wave of our policies, policies designed to help build the skills we need for the jobs of the future. First, teaching kids coding from primary school all the way through high school, as well as 100,000 STEM university degrees where the HECS isn't applied. In addition to that we've said we'll create a Startup Year at university, so people can start a business while they're still at university with HECS-like funding to support them on the way.

And today we add to that by creating a national network of incubators and accelerators, focused particularly on the regions because, as Bill said, these sorts of businesses shouldn't just be created in Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane, they can be created right across the country. And on capital, we've got to do more to make sure that we're funding these terrific businesses, give young people and older people with great ideas the opportunities they need. So, in our first wave of policy we announced a half a billion-dollar co-investment fund. In our second wave of policies we said we need to get the money that's in superannuation linked to great start-ups and we've began work on that as well. And now in our third tranche we've said we need tax incentives to encourage people that have got a few bob to invest in great Australian startups. So we've taken the model from the United Kingdom, the SEIS model which has been so effective there, and applied it here in Australia. In addition to that, setting up landing pads. One in the United States but we also want to set up one in Asia as well and this is about helping young Australian businesses get a start and we've seen young Australian businesses here today who've gone to the US, got great ideas and come back and now creating more job opportunities but also getting the CSIRO as well as Austrade working together and collaborating overseas and helping to commercialise great ideas. But we shouldn't just look east to the United States, we've got to look north to Asia as well and those developing economies where there are great opportunities for all Australian businesses including Australian startups. Thanks very much.

HUSIC: Thanks, Jason. We're just about to go to questions but if I can just take this opportunity to put a spotlight on people that haven't had a spotlight on them and have actually been working in this space for quite some time. There are lot of businesses that we said earlier through Inspire9 and thank you to Nathan and Kirsten and Malina for their hope today and they've been very invested in the eco system themselves and we salute them for that. There have been others that are here today that I want to specially recognise, people like Lenny Mayo, who's the Chairman of Startup Vic and has been a prominent angel investor himself and is also joined by Adrian Stone, another startup angel investor himself and behind Angel Cube and also other VC opportunities that have been sparked as a result of his interest and Scott Hansaker, who is the CEO of Startup Victoria and founder of a startup himself. These are a sample of the type of people that well before the nation started focussing in this area, had committed themselves, their money and undertaken risk to pursue what they believe is a vision that sees Australia competing on the world stage when it comes to early-stage innovation. And if I can, while you're all here, just take a moment to invite Lenny Mayo up who can talk about some of the things he's gone through and what is the common experience in this sector. Thank you, Lenny.

LENNY MAYO (CEO, Startup Victoria): Well, I'm actually a software engineer who sort of got started in making software and that - an interest in making stuff transitioned into making businesses and then later into angel investing. Just reflecting on what some of what was said earlier, I'm sort of asking myself why is this important. It strikes me that the infrastructure of today is roads, buildings, bridges, the energy grid, water, all of which is built by large companies - but the infrastructure of tomorrow is information infrastructure and the information infrastructure of tomorrow, some of it's going to be built by large companies, but a lot of it's going to be built in the early days by small groups of people taking a lot of risk. And a lot of what we've heard today is targeted at that sector of small groups of people taking risk and to use a sporting metaphor because we're close to the MCG, I'd say it's about encouraging more people to pick up the cricket bat and have a crack. From my perspective, angel investors have a role in helping those small groups of people who are taking a risk, you know, helping them find their product market fit or for those who've found their product market fit, helping them be more successful. So, just hugely excited about what's been announced today. It's sort of a one stride in a longer journey to turn Australia into a best practice innovation policy framework.

SHORTEN: Ladies and gentlemen, are there any questions, if you have any left after all that detail.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, why are you making this announcement today, is it to beat the Government who's making their own on Monday?

SHORTEN: No, let's face it, the Liberal Party squandered two years haven't they. They've had $3 billion worth of cuts in research. The Liberals have had two years to talk about innovation. They're now playing catch up with us. I would just remind you that today's announcement is the third in a series where we've spoken about how do we make sure that young people have got the skills for the innovation age. How do we make sure that the capital or the money's flowing in to incentivise investment and how do we make sure that our tax system and initiatives to help in the regions, to help overseas, how does that all fit together? What Labor's been doing in our year of ideas is constructing a whole eco system, the whole environment, whereby we can give these smart people you see behind me the best chance to succeed in the future and the best chance for more Australians to have more jobs in the future.

JOURNALIST: Setting up a new agency, also regional hubs and seemingly tax incentives for investments for start-ups, how much is all that going to cost?

SHORTEN: We've costed it, it's about $16 million for the regional innovation hubs, it's about $14 million for the startup capital and it's about $2 to $4 million for the landing pads. What we get is this is taxpayers' money. Those numbers I just rolled off, whilst they're significant, are not gigantic. See, there's lot of people already doing things. The job of Government is to be smart, it's to help navigate the future. When you think of that tick list which we've just run through, putting some scarce resources into the regions and the metropolitan universities, the outer suburbs, tick - that makes sense. Having a landing pad initially in San Francisco and one in Asia, using the strength of Government agencies like the CSIRO and Austrade to help provide a friendly face for Australians with great ideas as they try and make it big in America, well, that's just a smart ide - that doesn't cost a lot. What we're proposing incentivising our angel investors, they're already doing the heavy lifting. These very modest people represented as we heard by Lenny, they're already doing the work, just a little bit of help, helps decrease perhaps some of the risk profile and it means that people are willing to make that, you know, challenge. What I want to do in Australia is have more money spent on innovation than on the Melbourne Cup and I guess that's a pretty modest goal and of course on Innovate Australia, just as we're doing with some of our incentive schemes, we've had a good look around the whole world. Our challenge in Australia is to see what's the best in the world and adopt and apply it in the Australia circumstance and that's what we're doing with Innovate Australia.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, when does the NBN come into innovation policy and when can we expect more announcements about the latest policy?

SHORTEN: Well, that's great you're asking about the NBN. There's no doubt that under the current Government the NBN has been vandalised and trashed essentially. It’s a lot more expensive than they promised it would be and it's delivering a lot less outcomes. It's more expensive and slower but why don't I get my communications spokesperson Jason Clare to talk a little bit more about this.

CLARE: There's been lot of bad news on the NBN unfortunately over the last few months. It's been revealed now that 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 time it's going to take to build the NBN has blown out by twice as much as what Malcolm Turnbull said it would be. He said that everyone would have access to the NBN by the end of next year. That's now blown out to 2020. We found out a couple of weeks ago that Malcolm Turnbull's now bought 1800km of copper to build his second-rate version of the NBN. Last week there was a leaked document that shows that the Optus HSC network, that he got to build his network, doesn't work and that he can't use it and he's going to have to try and make it work another way. Then yesterday in The Australian newspaper it was revealed that to fix the old copper network that John Howard sold last century and he bought back, that cost is going to be 900 per cent of what he thought it would cost so this a mess. Malcolm Turnbull has made a mess of the NBN and it's going to be up to Labor and a Labor Government to fix Malcolm Turnbull's mess. We've already said that if you vote for Labor at the next election you'll be voting for more fibre because we're the party of fibre. We’re the party that knows that this is going to be necessary to set us up for the future and closer to the next election we'll announce more details on our policy.

SHORTEN: Thanks Jason, any other questions?

JOURNALIST: On Monday the Turnbull Government will release its policy document and I'm sure it will be full of very hopeful and joyous news as well for a startup so at this point, I think the tone today has been quite adversarial but I believe that since the ascension of Mr Turnbull the idea was that there will be bipartisan support to help this community. How does your policy be any different to Malcolm Turnbull's given that essentially they are both trying to, as you said, not choose winners but just provide that extra bit of assistance?

SHORTEN: Let's not be pollyanna-ish here. We're in a competition with the Liberal Party. I don't think Malcolm Turnbull fully represents the Liberal Party and we've seen some real defections this week. You've got Ian Macfarlane who was his Minister for Science. He's decided to join the National Party. That's his vote of confidence in Malcolm Turnbull. When it comes to policies, I hope that Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals do put forward good policies, I really want that, but we're willing to compete. Where they've got a good idea we'll certainly be up to working with it but when you think about some of the roll call of what we've said, I just can't see the Liberals getting in this. They're not are not even in the same playing field. For instance and I’ll just pick a couple examples, the regions - we're the ones putting the regions on the map when it comes to innovation. We're the ones who are backing in the NBN properly which would have given the regions a far greater chance to be engaged in the international economy.

And when it comes to higher education, all the fine words and opportunities and tax breaks in the world come to nought if we're not properly funding our universities and only Labor said we'll provide 100,000 - that's right, 100,000 HECS debt-free places over the next five years for students to study science, technology, engineering and maths-based courses. You know, that's where the people come from. When it comes to what our children learn in schools, you can have the finest tax breaks possible, and they are important, but if your kids aren't getting taught the right curriculum in schools then, again, that comes to nought. See for us, we understand that innovation and technology are a means to an end. What we want to see is Australians get jobs. We want young Australians to be trained and have the opportunity for the jobs of the future. We want to make sure that Australian businesses, wherever they are in Australia, not just the Sydney or Melbourne CBD, also get the chance to back in their ideas. That's the difference.

JOURNALIST: Should Mal Brough stand aside?

SHORTEN: Yes, I don't think there could be any doubt about that now. Mal Brough, Special Minister of State, what that title means is he's the Government Minister in charge of integrity. He has misled parliament on five occasions. Labor didn't create this crisis, it's created by two circumstances. One, Mal Brough went on '60 Minutes' and when confronted with a direct question by respected journalist Liz Hayes, he said, yes, he did what he was accused of. Then he's gone into Parliament and said no, he didn't do that. So, he's misled the Parliament; he's put himself into trouble by his own actions. The other reason why he needs to go and why this is a serious issue is that he's had all of these issues and yet Malcolm Turnbull promoted Mal Brough as a reward for supporting Malcolm Turnbull get the top job.

It seems to me that Malcolm Turnbull's judgment is definitely under scrutiny because we've got the crazy situation where he promoted the wrong man, Malcolm Brough, and he demoted the right guy, Ian Macfarlane, and now we've seen that spun into two distinct issues. One, you've got a Special Minister of State, in name only, and yet Malcolm Turnbull can't admit he's wrong and yet you've got Ian Macfarlane who was a respected minister, he's now defected from Malcolm Turnbull's party to join the other party in the Coalition. You know, this is to me, watching what's happened with Ian Macfarlane, is the first visible crack in terms of a deeply divided and unhappy Government.

JOURNALIST:  Mr Shorten, would you urge the police to continue their investigations into Mal Brough sooner rather than later?

SHORTEN: That's a matter for the police. My concern is that Mal Brough's misled the Parliament and we've got this remarkable situation where Mal Brough goes on television, he says one thing and then turns up in Parliament and says the exact opposite. If that isn't misleading I don't know what is and then we've got - it's been doubled down on by Malcolm Turnbull who can't admit he's promoted the wrong fellow and then you see the sort of triple whammy, you've got Ian Macfarlane who was a Minister, he was thrown under a bus by Malcolm Turnbull so he's left and joined another party and of course this week we've seen Tony Abbott accuse the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison of treachery. This is a divided Government. This isn't just the Labor Party saying it. This is what they're saying about each other to journalist and to Australians and in the meantime they're not focussing on the issues of - schools, hospitals, jobs.

Thanks, everyone.

ENDS

 

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