"I know that it can be scary. It can be worrying for a parent; I am a parent myself. My kids are six and four, and Troy and I often worry about the jobs that our kids will have access to in the future when they are a bit older. I know that it is very concerning for a parent to try to look into the future and guess what sorts of jobs are going to exist and what sorts of skills the kids are going to need in order to have those jobs. But that is a reason to be bolder, not more cautious. It is a reason to press ahead with reform, not retreat to the idea that we just close our eyes and hope that things might not change. That is not going to work. We have to embrace the opportunities that are going to be brought by the new and emerging economy. That includes the necessity of thinking about how innovation policy can support high-growth firms that can create jobs."
Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (18:07): It is a real pleasure to follow the member for Chifley in relation to the Industry Research and Development Amendment (Innovation and Science Australia) Bill 2016 because he has been one of Australia's leading proponents of the start-up sector and of innovation for a very long time. We are very fortunate to have him on this side of the House because he is such a passionate advocate for the sector and for high-growth start-up firms. He is someone who has a wealth of knowledge in relation to the issues facing the sector.
That is why he was able to do such great work in really leading the charge in developing crowdsourced equity funding in this country. I was very fortunate to follow him in the debate on the Corporations Amendment (Crowd-sourced Funding) Bill 2015 as well. He outlined some of the changes that needed to be made in relation to that bill not just because of his own view, his own opinion, but also because the stakeholders had been calling for changes. For example, there were some really pragmatic, sensible changes that AVCAL—the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association Limited—had proposed to make the crowdsourced equity funding provisions more workable. I am very fortunate to have done some work with AVCAL.
In the last parliament, the now Speaker and I formed a bipartisan group—the Parliamentary Friends of Innovation and Enterprise. We worked across the sector. We worked with AVCAL, and we heard from venture capitalists andangel investors. We involved the university sector, we involved start-ups themselves, and we involved everyone with an interest in innovation in this country and, specifically, with an interest in relation to start-ups and new high-growth enterprises. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with AVCAL and many other stakeholders in that process. They are the people at the front line. They are the people who have a real understanding of what it is going to take to do something about the fact that, in Australia, there is more money punted on the Melbourne Cup than there is invested in early-stage start-ups.
I am pleased to speak in support of this bill because, in fact, Innovate Australia was our policy. It is a policy that the coalition mirrored. It is a policy that we announced—
Mr Hunt: Oh, yes?
Ms BUTLER: Check the scoreboard, mate! I should not have called you 'mate'. You are not my mate; that is very clear. I should have called you 'minister'. My mates tend to be more interested in promoting the interests of start-ups and high-growth firms—people like the member for Chifley, who is my mate, and I am very pleased that he is.
Of course, the interesting thing about the policy is that we announced our policy to establish a new entity called Innovate Australia, based on the highly successful UK model, and then a very short time later the coalition decided to announce the same policy. So we support the creation of an entity that mirrors our policy. We are very pleased that the coalition reached out and had some bipartisanship on that aspect of our innovation policies, but we wish that they would adopt more of our policies that we took to the election in relation to innovation because ours were better and more comprehensive.
Specifically, what is happening here is a very piecemeal approach to innovation in this country. That is not good enough because there is a pressing imperative to diversify Australia's economy and early-stage, high-growth firms are an important part of that diversification. We would encourage the government to continue reading our policies that we announced before the election and to consider what other parts of our platform it might be interested in implementing so that we can work together to do that. In fact, if the government is looking for other inspiration, it could take a leaf out of the book of Minister Enoch in Queensland—a visionary minister in the Queensland Labor government led by Annastacia Palaszczuk. In her first term as a member of parliament, she became the innovation minister and went into bat for the importance of supporting innovation in Queensland and the diversification of our economy. The consequence of that is the incredibly successful advance of the Queensland program, which has been supported to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. These things are so important because of that pressing need to diversify, because we need to know where the jobs of the future are going to come from and because high-growth firms are job creators.
I know that it can be scary. It can be worrying for a parent; I am a parent myself. My kids are six and four, and Troy and I often worry about the jobs that our kids will have access to in the future when they are a bit older. I know that it is very concerning for a parent to try to look into the future and guess what sorts of jobs are going to exist and what sorts of skills the kids are going to need in order to have those jobs. But that is a reason to be bolder, not more cautious. It is a reason to press ahead with reform, not retreat to the idea that we just close our eyes and hope that things might not change. That is not going to work. We have to embrace the opportunities that are going to be brought by the new and emerging economy. That includes the necessity of thinking about how innovation policy can support high-growth firms that can create jobs.
I said that the government could look for inspiration fromthe balance of our platform. Of course I wanted to mention the shadow minister, who is here with us tonight—the member for Chifley—but other leaders amongst the parliamentary Labor Party also put together a phenomenal platform to take to the election in relation to innovation. I could not possibly talk about all of it because we would be here for another five hours if I tried to do that. But I want to mention that that policy really aimed at looking at where the money is going to come from to invest in these early-stage firms, how are we going to make sure that people who have great ideas can pitch for the capital that is availableand how are they going to be supported through the information that they need? Anyone who has ever started a business would know that you need lots of information and support. You need to know practical things such as: how do you employ people legally and how on earth do you deal with suppliers and the tax office?
There is a range of things that need to be done in that regard, and of course we need policies that will do other things. We need policies that will promote the right skills.
That is why I was so pleased to announce, with the member for Chifley and of course with the Leader of the Opposition in Sydney last year, a program to get girls into coding. We had Code Club there. They were doing a program at Sydney Town Hall, and there were so many young people, but particularly girls—teenage girls learning coding and learning computational thinking through physical objects. It was an amazing place to be and it was a fantastic program.
When I first came to this place and we were talking about coding being needed for primary schools, in 2014, the coalition government laughed at the idea that we would have coding in primary schools. I think they really just did not understand the imperative. And now whenever I go into schools and I see the digital literacy curriculum being rolled out and I see the support the Queensland government is giving to schools in my state that are doing that and I talk to teachers and I talk to principals and I talk to parents—there is such a big move on to make sure that computational thinking is being taught.
My portfolio responsibility is higher education, and I was lucky recently to visit the Queensland University of Technology's school holiday STEM camp to see kids from across almost 200 schools in Queensland, to actually be at these different projects happening at that camp. There is an amazing piece of work being done in relation to biomanufacturing where they are 3D modelling people's ears for kids who are born without one of their ears. A mould is created for that, and the kids were learning about 3D printing in a form of silicon so that kids can have a second ear. I was so fortunate to see those grade 11 kids actually getting hands-on experience of that really serious and fascinating research and biomanufacturing project, led by Associate Professor Mia Woodruff at the Queensland University of Technology.
So, getting those skills right is important, from early education through school through vocational education through universities, and I am so proud of the policies we took to the election in relation to those things from capital to supporting the start-up sector and having an Australia in which it is possible to see how people could benefit from these new and emerging businesses in the future. Just to give you an example, I was recently given the opportunity to go to Commerce Queensland—or, I should say, the CCIQ, nowadays; I am showing my age! They have a collaboration with BlueChilli. People would know about BlueChilli, which is a really significant and leading accelerator program. The founder of the program came and spoke to a Friends of Innovation event for us when we kicked it off. They have a really great collaboration—Collaborate—in Queensland. The member for Chifley and the shadow Treasurer and Pat O'Neill and I were very fortunate to go for a tour through Collaborate and then address the stakeholders who were involved in that.
When we were there we talked to a lot of the start-ups that were just starting up their businesses, getting ready, looking at how to be high-growth, and I met this amazing man. He has a vision that I think every member of this House could get behind: a vision to make beer a force for good—
Mr Champion: It already is a force for good!
Ms BUTLER: even more of a force for good, member for Wakefield, than it already is. That man is James Grugeon, and his business, The Good Beer Co, is working with organisations to find a social purpose for beer. It is a social enterprise that channels profits from beers into social purposes. There is a really great example. They have been doing work with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, one of Australia's leading environmental organisations, a society that is working tirelessly to do things like protect the Great Barrier Reef and protect and lobby for marine reserves. They are an amazing organisation. I have had a lot to do with them and I am always inspired when I get to talk with them. They have a collaboration with The Good Beer Co aimed at having people drink beer in order to support the Great Barrier Reef. You just could not think of a better thing to do on a Friday night than have a beer and at the same time support the Great Barrier Reef.
These are the sorts of new and innovative enterprises that are starting to emerge. The example I just gave was of a social enterprise, which is a particular type of enterprise that aims to have a social purpose, whether for profit or not. Most of them are for-profit enterprises—people who want to make money and do good, which I heartily support. Those sorts of new enterprises are fledgling in this country, but they can be incredibly successful if the policy settings are right. As I said, if the government wants to find inspiration for how to get those policy settings right, they are more than welcome to look at other parts of our policy that they might wish to mirror in the way that they have mirrored it in this bill for Innovate Australia. But they could also look to Queensland. I am a Queenslander, and I am a proud Queenslander. It is wonderful to be a Queenslander, not just because of our amazing history in winning the State of Origin so often, so many times, and not just because of people like Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith.
An honourable member: You always bring that up.
Ms BUTLER: Yes, we do always bring this up. I will take that interjection. We certainly do always bring up our sporting prowess. But the other prowess that I want to mention is our prowess in supporting innovation and start-ups. I want to pay tribute to Minister Leeanne Enoch for the work she has done. Advance Queensland is aimed at making Queensland the nation's innovation leader, not just the State of Origin leader. It is a $405 million program that was announced this year to build on the work the Palaszczuk government has done since being elected. It feels like they have been there a long time, because they have achieved so much, but they were actually elected only in 2015. They have done so much in that time, and this package is so important because it really, as a budget centrepiece, is aimed at building on the work that has been done to diversify our Queensland economy. What I love about it is that it is taking the original Advance Queensland program, which was almost $200 million in investment in the government's first year as a government, and turning it into a whole-of-government plan—a whole-of-government innovation agenda worth $405 million.
Queensland is backing the innovators—start-ups, small business as well as schoolkids, farmers, scientists, researchers, tradespeople, engineers, doctors, teachers—to create a new era of opportunity.
That is including work that is being done in the cities, including my city of Brisbane, but also in a way that is highly consistent with what federal Labor did, looking at how on earth we are going to help make sure that in the regions people have the same opportunities as kids in the cities have to really promote their good ideas and to turn them into good businesses.
One of the things that is being done is support for regional innovation hubs, including the Cairns Innovation Centrethat is being established. We really support that, because we know that innovation should be something that improves economic activity and opportunities for the entire country, not just for people in the cities. So I want to commend the bill. Of course we support the bill, but it should go much further. It is too piecemeal. There is much more to be done, and there is plenty of inspiration from the Labor Party policies.