Here’s what Australia’s tech scene wants to see from the new Morrison government
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Scott Morrison’s coalition government easily won Saturday’s federal election, against the predictions of most experts.
The result came just over a month after the most recent federal budget, which left Australia’s tech scene disappointed over the lack of clarity around R&D tax incentives.
But by the standards of the last 10 years, Morrison’s victory is relatively unique; a Prime Minister with a clear majority in the lower house (relatively rare) who has cemented the support of his party (extremely rare) and now has a clear mandate to execute its stated policy agenda.
So, what do Australian tech companies — and the local startup scene more broadly — think of the result? Stockhead sought out feedback from the following industry players:
Three startup founders, two industry reps, and key players from crowd-funding and venture capital.
And the feedback we got exuded a tone of cautious optimism in the wake of this new-found political stability. The three company founders, however, were more circumspect — they still want to see key changes in legislation around immigration and tax before making a judgment on the current government’s success.
Here’s a summary of what they all had to say:
“Now the election result has been confirmed, we want to see the Morrison government readdress the shortcomings in Australia’s skilled immigration framework.
The process to get talent from overseas to work for startups in Australia is difficult and full of bureaucracy. At Proximity Insight, we’ve been knocked back with small technicalities in documentations and had to re-do multiple applications.
One applicant submitted her paperwork and it didn’t have enough references, so it was rejected with appeal timeline looking to be 18 months. There is not option to amend in a timely manner.
Speed and cost considerations are key to a startup’s success, and the process is unnecessarily difficult and lengthy.
There is a perfect storm for Australia to get overseas talent, with both the UK and US having issues. Everyone globally wants to live in Australia; if we could make it easier to hire top talent from key markets overseas, startups would be able to reap the benefits that would flow on to the greater economy.
The system in the US for Australians is pretty good; if you have a university degree in line with the job you get, you get a visa as long as it is within a quota limit. Nice simple rules that are easy to follow, which attracts talented workers who are adding value. And the quota will make sure it limits the risk of being abused.”
“We don’t think this election result will have an immediate impact on us or the startup ecosystem, as there were not any promises made towards funding or incentivising the ecosystem.
We look forward to hearing how the government will fill this policy vacuum, and hope it isn’t left as is. A good start would be to decouple startups and SMEs, and legislate for them separately. Startups have very different needs.
There is however a level of stability that comes with no change in government, and that will only serve to benefit current negotiations with future partners.
Uncertainty is bad for business, so a majority Liberal government will at least detract from any future political instability or disputes that could affect our operations.”
“Congratulations to Prime Minister Morrison and his team on a strong election result in a hard-fought campaign. This Prime Minister has been an active champion of high growth entrepreneurship. He was Treasurer at the time of the government’s $1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda, and as Treasurer personally supported a range of policy proposals to grow the fintech sector.
With a renewed mandate, and a focus on a strong economy, we look forward to his continued support for entrepreneurs. We also look forward to continuing to work with the government to help Australian startups access the best talent in the world, through the Global Talent Scheme.
There’s still lots of hard work to do to get the settings right to enable more Australian tech companies to become global successes, but we are optimistic about the opportunity now to clearly articulate the important role technology will play in Australia’s future prosperity.”
“We think the election result provides some political and economic certainty, which it seems Australia wants right now. Without getting into the merits of their ambitious policy agenda, if the ALP was elected, Australia would have entered a period of considerable change and uncertainty.
Scott Morrison will also have a much better chance of uniting the party with Tony Abbott out of the picture, and in light of his performance as a leader during the campaign.
Startups and tech businesses haven’t enjoyed as much attention from the Morrison Government as we feel they deserve. Now the election is done, we hope that startups and tech will form part of the Government’s agenda for growing the economy.”
“Saturday’s result presents a unique opportunity for fintech, finance and startup policy in Australia.
The Morrison Government didn’t set an agenda for the technology sector in its campaign. With no policy promises to fulfil, it has an opening to steer the industry in any way it sees fit.
We believe the government should use this position to drive forward the Consumer Data Right and Open Banking reform.
Open Banking reform directly addresses competition concerns raised by the Hayne’s Royal Banking Commission, and would provide substantial benefits to consumers. It could be a hallmark policy for the government were it to be implemented early during Prime Minister Morrison’s term.”
We’re hopeful that this election result will depoliticise startup and tech industry policy.
This election rules a line under the Innovation Agenda and the knee-jerk political backlash that resulted from it when it architect Malcolm Turnbull was kicked out of office. There’s now a real opportunity for government to underpin the growth of the industries of the future, and the jobs and economic opportunity that will result from it.
We would like to see a refocus on R&D tax incentives from the government. Despite its cuts to the funding pool in the last budget, we believe the government will see a greater return on investment if it better funnels this fund at emerging companies rather than big business. One easy way to do this would be to reduce red tape for businesses applying for the grant if they fall under a certain revenue threshold.
A Minister for Innovation that encompasses startup business, innovation and future technologies would also be a great step forward for ensuring the ecosystem is represented in parliament, as its needs are different to regular small businesses.
There’s an argument to be made that the Morrison government has already hurt the perception of our ecosystem with its rush tech policy reform and its cuts to R&D. Sydney’s recent slip on the latest StartUp Genome ranking is yet another clear warning sign on this front.
As a globally expanding business, we’re yet to feel the consequences of these moves. Australia is still well regarded for its talent, and its lifestyle compared to other startup hubs.
The Morrison government now has recharged mandate that excludes any focus on the startup sector or even to support companies expanding beyond our shores.
However, we have to give the incoming government the benefit of the doubt that they won’t intentionally damage our ecosystem further and will consult with industry rather than reform around it.
We’re certain the industry is ready to open channels with the Morrison Government and the incoming Innovation Minister. Let’s hope they feel the same way.