Friday, 05 April 2019 16:36

StartupAUS chief welcomes Shorten pledge on R&D Featured

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Alex McCauley says the public is still looking for leadership on technology's critical role in the economic future of the country. Alex McCauley says the public is still looking for leadership on technology's critical role in the economic future of the country. Supplied

A renewed focus on research and development was the only bright spot in the Budget reply speech made by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Thursday, the head of Australia's national start-up advocacy group says.

Alex McCauley, the chief executive of StartupAUS, said in a statement that Australia seemed to be "otherwise trending worryingly towards tech-phobia".

"Following the continued decline in R&D and the ongoing confusion around the R&D Tax Incentive, Shorten's promise to invest in industry shows welcome signs of leadership for a sector feeling under attack," he said.

In the Budget, announced on Tuesday, the government cut $1.35 billion from the R&D tax incentive to add to a sum of more than $2 billion that was cut in the previous budget.

McCauley noted that Shorten explicitly called out advanced manufacturing and hydrogen energy as areas in which Australia could become the best in the world.

"It's a promising sentiment to see an active focus on R&D. We could add a lot of new and emerging industries to Shorten's list – including, of course, 'software', which is going to drive economic growth globally in the next few decades," he said.

McCauley described the decline of R&D across the economy as "a huge red flag for Australia, so it's encouraging to see Labor's platform starting to address the issue".

"Labor has also previously committed to doubling aggregate R&D spending in Australia by 2030 - a very positive target that will take lots of creative thinking and ambition to achieve."

He said while Labor's support for R&D and new industries was welcome, the public was still looking for leadership on technology's critical role in the economic future of the country.

"In stark contrast to the priority given to innovation and technology in the 2016 election, neither major party has outlined a credible strategic vision for how we're going to maintain our prosperity in a new tech-led era," McCauley added.

"We're hoping our politicians step up in the election campaign to outline their vision and plan for Australia's economic future."

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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