Industry groups from the tech and startup sectors must focus more on productive services for their members, rather than lobbying government for increased support, according to Innovation and Science Australia chief executive officer Charlie Day.
Speaking at a Pearcey Foundation forum in Melbourne last week, Mr Day said that since he joined ISA early last year, he had seen several industry groups serve only to lobby government.
“There are too many groups in Australia that take fees from their members and then go and lobby government, and I think that’s ultimately not a productive use of those members’ funds,” Dr Day said.
These groups would be better off servicing the industries and driving real change, Dr Day said.
“I think that Australia generates a lot of industry bodies whose primary role is to lobby government. We instinctively look to government to solve our challenges,” he said.
“But I would like to see a lot more of the industry bodies investing in their own industry, catalysing action in their own industry and investing energies in helping their sectors to change, rather than investing energies in lobbying the government.”
“Ultimately, people like the Mining Council show that a small amount of lobbying can save an industry a lot of money.
“But when we think about transitioning to Industry 4.0, it’s important that sector bodies act like self-help organisations and mobilise their stakeholders.”
Dr Day pointed to the Committee for Melbourne – whose chief executive Martine Letts was also on the panel – as an industry group that was delivering an effective service for members.
The Committee for Melbourne is an apolitical, not-for-profit group comprising 120 organisations from Melbourne, with an aim to make Melbourne a “leading global city in the world’s fastest growing region”.
Ms Letts said the group helps to bring a range of different stakeholders together in the same room.
“If you’ve got a diverse membership within a room you can provide perspectives that people won’t get in their own working environment, and they will be sharing knowledge and learnings. That creates a safe environment where crazy stuff can be put on the table,” Ms Letts said.
Many members of the tech sector need to stop relying on the government for support and funding, Ms Letts said.
“Sometimes government has to just not get in the way. There’s an expectation that they cover everything, but as a minimum they need to just not stop people from doing things that need a bit of freedom,” she said.
“We’re all responsible for putting in, and I’m sick and tired of hearing some of those peak bodies just whinging and being rent seekers – looking for special favours or deals for their own organisations or own members and not getting the bigger picture.”