Opposition digital economy spokesman Ed Husic says that if Labor wins this Saturday’s federal election, its focus will be more on the development of human capital – building skills and capability – rather than creating incentives for new pools of capital.
“I have to be completely upfront that [the ALP] hasn’t announced many investment funds through this campaign. I’ve resisted them because – from my point of view – I would rather private capital support investment in early stage firms,” Mr Husic said during a public Q&A chat hosted by InnovationAus.com and StartupAUS.
“What I want government to invest dollars into is human capital,” he said.
Mr Husic said he was concerned that local businesses are playing catch-up with offshore counterparts in areas of automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and that the government had not fully considered the impact these technologies are having on the workforce.
You can listed to the Ed Husic Q&A chat here:
“In Australia there have been big decisions around investments in technology and I actively question whether or not the people element is being considered on the way through,” he told InnovationAus.com.
“The view that people are simply disposable is going to present a big challenge for business and the philosophy around in which they organise.”
“I don’t look at this from a purely mechanistic perspective; there’s a societal impact that needs to be considered and our role as a parliamentarian is to have those difficult, pointed conversations,” he said.
“We can’t have a callous disregard of the workforce just because business wants to play catch-up.”
In addition to investing in the skills of the local workforce, Mr Husic said there remained an important role for skilled migration in helping to build the capability and capacity of Australian industry.
“I’ve often said we could fill every single vacancy with a local and I still think there’s a role for skilled migration. If people are doing something smart around the world, and they want to come here, then we should bring them here because we need to ensure the knowledge base is continually replenished,” Mr Husic said.
“From our point of view, we will maintain what we call SMART Visa, which is a direct response to when the Coalition made the announcement, they were going to clamp down on the 457 visas. We want to make sure we still have an opening for tech to access talent.”
Ahead of Saturday’s election, Mr Husic provided further details about the Labor plan to establish a Treasurer’s Entrepreneur Council under Chris Bowen. He said the council would meet quarterly and take a “very active role in advising government.”
“Treasury will setup an Entrepreneur Council and it will provide direct feedback from the startup community into the decision-making process so that if things were going off the rails, red flags can spring up much quicker,” he said.
While it is undecided on who be on the council, Mr Husic said StartupAus chief executive Alex McCauley and Queensland chief entrepreneur Leanne Kemp would be appointed to put forward recommendations for the best way in which council would operate.
Mr Husic also took the fireside chat as an opportunity to examine more broadly at how the Coalition has dealt with innovation to date.
“While it was good the Coalition focused on innovation back in 2016, their Achilles heel was their focus was largely to the benefit of wealth and capital, rather than taking a much broader spread that this would give people employment pathways and this would good for the long-term.”
Listen to the StartupAUS and InnovationAus.com fireside chat with the Shadow Minister for Human Services and the Digital Economy Ed Husic in full here.