MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE: Economy: Innovation, Science and Research

Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (15:34): Last night I had the pleasure to attend the Sydney university INCUBATE Demo Day, which had eight young enterprising start-ups pitch their ideas for investment to try to attract investment support for their planned businesses. INCUBATE has had a great track record of success. It was actually initially supported by the student union at Sydney university because Sydney university did not want to support INCUBATE. It is supporting it now. It is being run by James Alexander and a great bunch of people.

Last night at their Demo Day one of the youngest start-ups was recognised by Lenovo. It won the entrepreneurs award. This start-up was set up by two people who met in high school. They started university this year. They put together their company, Fluid Education, and they started an app. They have 1,000 users already. There would be some people in this place who would have enough trouble getting 1,000 Twitter followers, and these people have users already. These young people have already demonstrated their capability to start up a business.

These are the type of people who are at the forefront of our thinking on the Labor side. I am happy to say to the start-ups and the entrepreneurs in this country that are trying to change the way our economy works, trying to create new jobs and build better communities that they have a voice in Labor. They have our attention. This is the first time a ministerial or shadow ministerial position has recognised start-ups in the line-up. Start-ups have been recognised for the first time. Small business is important to recognise, but it is also important to recognise start-ups. It is not just in name; it is in action. It is not just about talking the talk; it is about walking the walk.

If the assistant minister wants ideas, we have released two waves of policies already. The budget reply speech was warmly received by the start-up community because it focused on the fact that we need to build the talent pool in this country.

The way to do it is to do it early: to get young people focused on computational thinking and on coding, and get that into primary schools—derided, I might add, by the former Prime Minister, who had to backtrack because wiser heads on that side of the fence recognised that this was not a smart policy and that we do need to get younger people focused on coding.

We have announced support for STEM and getting more people into science, technology, engineering and mathematics training. We announced, for example, the creation of a start-up year that would ensure not just that we would attack the low level of start-up formation in this country but also that we would break down the culture that works against people thinking they can start their own enterprise. More important than anything else is the start-up year creating 2,000 new start-ups.

It is also in dealing with, for example, capital flows. We have announced that our policy would be to create an innovation-investment partnership, which would bring together superannuation funds and the VC sector to work out how to pull down the barriers that exist in one of the biggest savings pools on the planet—$2 trillion in superannuation. How do we get them to invest more in early-stage investment, right here? If you want ideas, we have them and more, assistant minister. We will be bringing more.

Mr Pitt interjecting

Mr HUSIC: I might ask the member for Hinkler: what is your record on innovation? As much as you call us for ideas, let us look at what you have done. Just on innovation: reductions in the value of R&D; abolish Commercialisation Australia. The assistant minister has become great friends with Doron Ben-Meir but his government rid him of Commercialisation Australia. He is now in MAP at the University of Melbourne after having seen all the funds cut out of Commercialisation Australia and being gutted. They abolished Enterprise Connect. They cut $45 million from clean technology programs and abolished industry-innovation precincts.

You want ideas? Here is an idea: don't keep cutting innovation if you want the country to be more innovative. You cannot have a policy hackathon, assistant minister, if you are going to say at the table that we are not about spending money. The people who are attending will want to know what support they will get for ideas.

Wyatt Roy: More money!

Mr HUSIC: You are right, assistant minister, because you and I do have these conversations. Start-ups want government to do the things they do well: support education, improve capital flows, reduce regulatory barriers and make sure we are an innovative nation. (Time expired)

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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