Qld budget a disappointment for local tech

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

The Queensland state budget has provided few new initiatives focused on technology and innovation and follows the Palaszczuk government’s six-month freeze on new IT projects.

The Queensland budget came a week after the Victorian government had poured record sums into the tech sector through a range of new initiatives, heralded as setting a new bar for government support for the industry.

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) has lamented the lack of new policies and funding in the Queensland budget, labelling it a “missed opportunity”.

The Queensland government did acknowledge the role of procurement in supporting local companies, especially in tech, with the introduction of a target of 25 per cent of contracts going to SMEs.

Queensland budget: A missed opportunity to reset the state economy

While the recent Victorian budget included a $2 billion fund for research and development, adoption and commercialisation, a $61 million fund for startups, a $25 million venture growth fund for scale-ups and a $10 million fund for female founders, Queensland’s effort included few new tech-focused policies.

The New South Wales government also recently unveiled its own budget with a focus on tech, led by the $1.6 billion Digital Restart Fund.

The Queensland budget included a previously announced $500 million Backing Queensland Business Investment Fund, to be managed by the Queensland Investment Corporation. The fund will invest in relatively mature companies that are seeking capital to expand and grow, but without a specific focus on tech or R&D.

The state government will establish an Immersive Technology Hub in an effort to help local industry, corporates and the government better understand and engage with immersive tech.

The budget also included $40.5 million over four years for a Making it in Queensland strategy focused on advanced manufacturing and nearly $35 million for an advanced energy management system.

It comes after Queensland announced a six-month freeze on new IT projects in July, covering everything except those focusing on “critical safety or cybersecurity”, as part of a series of saving measures.

The state budget is a “missed opportunity”, especially in light of the support on offer in other states, AIIA chief Ron Gauci said.

“While we are pleased to see the Queensland government invest further into growing digital skills within the workforce, more needs to be done. The road to COVID-19 economic recovery isn’t just paved with traditional shovel-ready projects but with ‘click-ready’ projects that will help deliver efficiencies and safety mechanisms to the Queensland community,” Mr Gauci said.

“There is an urgent need for strong local talent to support the growth of digitisation and innovation across the state. Investing in skills is key to ensuring Queensland contributes to the country’s vision of achieving a globally competitive and leading digital economy.”

Now is the time for governments to focus on innovation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a once in a lifetime opportunity for major reform and restructure of our economy and society. We have a unique opportunity as a country to build a national digital backbone, to build an Australia that is secure and resilient and harness local skills, businesses and economy to position ourselves as a global leader in technology,” he said.

The Queensland government will however look to leverage its own procurement to assist local SMEs, with the introduction of a target of 25 percent of contracts going to local small and medium businesses.

It will also embed a buy Queensland approach to procurement, with an aim of increasing opportunities for local suppliers, the government said.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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