The AMWU has welcomed the fresh focus on innovation by both sides of politics but warned that neither goes far enough to help re-generate the majority of firms employing our members.
Government policy to restore funding to the CSIRO and assisting university research and development was a definite step forward but only pulled back a third of the $3.3 billion stripped from research and science since the last federal election.
AMWU National President Andrew Dettmer said that while encouraging small start-up firms is important to Australia’s future, the Government had failed to focus on innovation among existing small and medium enterprises which are the linchpin of national economy – and job growth.
“Devoting $250 million to help the biomedical sector is good in itself - but Australian industry is far wider than just biomedical,” Mr Dettmer said.
He said $1.1 billion over four years would target the start of the innovation cycle which was far from the stage where commercialisation into products for export was likely to happen.
“Australia needs to lift the performance of medium-size businesses, to change the management culture so they are willing to invest in research and innovation. The Coalition statement does little for existing manufacturing,” Mr Dettmer said.
“That requires finance which banks have been reluctant to give and while the 20 per cent tax offset for investors in startups is positive, it ignores the businesses that are best positioned to grow jobs now.”
This could have been a Government-backed “patent box” tied to helping commercialisation of innovative intellectual property. Another alternative was a Manufacturing Finance Corporation to kick-start finance for firms seeking to develop new products.
He said the Coalition package also failed to address the skills shortages which are hindering businesses developing and deploying new products, which can only be rectified by better TAFE funding and tertiary courses in science and engineering-related disciplines.
Mr Dettmer said the AMWU was pleased that regional and international collaboration between industry and research was encouraged, but Labor went further with it’s regional incubators.
Yet neither side’s proposals had adequate funding to develop the potential of the links – the Government committed just $36 million.
“It is most welcome that far more funds - $2.3 billion over a decade – will be put into the hard infrastructure of research, the buildings and facilities,” Mr Dettmer said.
Our union also shares ACTU concerns about proposed changes to bankruptcy rules which could leave workers and creditors financially exposed to rorters if not strictly policed.
The AMWU applauds the fact that both sides of politics are attempting to capitalise on our research ability by converting it to commercial success in new manufacturing, which is essential to retain our living standards.
“We must move away from an over-reliance on mining and agriculture through industries which yield skilled, high-wage jobs but the Coalition won’t achieve that with an under-funded package which bets too heavily on start-ups,” Mr Dettmer said.