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Transcript of joint press conference: Canberra: 15 March 2016: new appointments strengthen Innovation and Science Australia

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15 March 2016

New appointments strengthen Innovation and Science Australia Joint Press Conference, Canberra



I’m here with Christopher Pyne and Maile Carnegie and Michele Allan to announce the appointments, the new appointments to the board of Innovation and Science Australia which is as you know is chaired by Bill Ferris. Let me run through the members of the board, Alan Finkel our Chief Scientist will be the deputy chair, Maile Carnegie on my right who’s the Chief Executive Officer of Google Australia and New Zealand and about to head up digital transformation at the ANZ, will be on the board, Michele Allan who’s on Christopher's left who is the Chancellor of Charles Sturt University and among other accomplishments, the Chair of Meat and Livestock Australia, an important point to bear in mind because innovation is just as important in agriculture as it is in digital, in the more traditionally digital technology applications.

In addition to these people that I’ve mentioned, Scott Farquhar who of course is one of the co-founders and Chief Executive Officer of Atlassian will be on the board. Daniel Petre one of Australia's leading venture capitalists and technologists will be on the board. Paul Bassat, similarly accomplished co-founder of SEEK and now running Square Peg Capital a very successful technology VC firm and Dr Chris Roberts who also has a very distinguished innovation track record and is a Director of ResMed one of our leading bioscience, biotechnology companies.

Now the innovation agenda is absolutely critical for Australia's continued successful transition continuing to successfully transition as we have been from an economy that was fired up by the mining construction boom, mining construction investment therein and got up to nearly 8 per cent, so massive boost to the economy and very welcome and appreciated but inevitably it was going to tail off so what comes next? What comes next is innovation, open markets, investment, entrepreneurship, enterprise.

Every level of our Government is focused on a more innovative, enterprising Australia and a more innovative and enterprising Government. Now the National Innovation and Science Australia Board is going to be critical to providing us with that advice. You’ll see that it has got a number of leading businessmen and women on it and the reason for that is that it is vital that we work closely with

industry and academia and business and venture capital to ensure that we get the right inspiration, the right stimulation for investment and for example today or this week we'll be introducing legislation to provide the tax incentives and CGT exemptions, Capital Gains Tax exemptions for investments in early stage startups.

Investors will receive a 20 per cent tax offset based on the amount that they invest in these early stage startups and Christopher can talk more about that in a moment, as well as a Capital Gains Tax exemption.

So what we’re doing is encouraging people to invest and we're doing that by taking taxes off. Without introducing an unduly partisan note into this otherwise inspiring media event let me just note that the Labor Party are doing the exact opposite. What they are doing is discouraging investment at every turn. They're actually increasing the tax on capital gains and of course if you want people to do less of something, you put more tax on it so they clearly want there to be less investment, we want there to be more. We want there to be more investment and particularly more innovative investment and that's what our whole innovation agenda is all about.

So Maile, Michele thank you very much and thank your other colleagues for joining the board. It’s going to be a very important element in our continuing project of ensuring that Australia, innovative, competitive, productive, is able to prosper in this exciting time in which we live. This time of unprecedented global economic growth and change, unprecedented both in scale and scope and we believe we have some of the best minds in Australia to advise us as we chart that journey. Christopher.


Thank you Malcolm. There’s just a couple of things I would add. Obviously the people that we’ve chosen for the Innovation and Science Australia Board continue the theme of the National Innovation and Science Agenda of bringing people in to advise the Government who are from both the academic and business world. So for example Bill Ferris is the Chairman of Innovation and Science Australia from the business world, who’s done the job of creating new businesses, startups, turning them into large companies and of course Alan Finkel as the Chief Scientist who comes from both the academic and the business side of our economy and who’ll bring that kind of laser-like focus on making commercialisation of research an important priority.

The people that we’ve appointed to this board are quite different to the previous board members because we want to have a focus on the way of creating jobs and growth through the innovation part of our economy. Michele Allan is a continuing member of the board. She’s been reappointed because as Chancellor of the University in New England and also a successful business person in her own right, she adds ballast to the continuation of the Innovation and Science Australia.

And today is also another one of the stepping stones along the way for the implementation of the National Innovation and Science Agenda that we started in December last year. So for example we’ve already announced the people who’ll be rolling out our programs for science, technology, engineering and maths in preschools, the people who’ll be supporting digital literacy for teachers in the national curriculum. They’ve already been announced and already underway. Landing pads have been announced in Shanghai, Tel Aviv and San Francisco and are either opened or in the process of being opened and two more will be soon announced.

As the Prime Minister mentioned, tomorrow we introduce legislation to implement the tax incentives for early stage investors, angel investors in startups and some of the changes around venture capital limited partnerships. We’ve started the consultation for changing visas to include a new visa for entrepreneurs which takes a long process but that process has begun. As has the process for implementing the incubator program that Wyatt Roy is responsible for and the crowd-

sourced equity funding laws are already through the House of Representatives and are waiting in the Senate for their passage there. So we aren't just talking about jobs and employment, we're actually getting on with the job of creating employment and growth in our economy. That's the difference between us and our Labor opponents; they’re still talking about new things as though they are new things. We're a long way down the track. This team is helping the economy transition to a new place and certainly this is the team that can be trusted to do so whereas Labor will simply take us back. I wonder whether Michele and Maile want to add anything.


What I find about this new board is it is looking at all the expenditure and innovation across Government. $9.8 billion is spent on innovation. This is the first time there will be a complete overview of all that expenditure and a focus to make sure that it meets the Government's agenda.


Here, here.


Thank you. Maile?


Well first of all, I just want to say it is an honour to be asked to join, so thank you for that. For me the thing I found most exciting was two things; one is when I actually spoke to the Government, the speed at which they are starting to make these changes and, therefore, the commitment and seriousness they are taking this issue or opportunity was extraordinary to me. But the other one is when you look at not just the expenditure and the speed but also some of the other choices they are making, they are very clearly looking to line up where they think we need to make the biggest changes. So for example, we have talked about the fact we need better collaboration between business and things like academia. If I look at the makeup of this board, the board is structured to try and enable those things. So there is a lot of choices the Government is making which are really exciting for me and exciting to be a part of. So I'm looking forward to it.


Thank you very much. Thank you both very much indeed.


Prime Minister the Greens say that they’ve made an investment decision not to support recalling the Senate should you wish to bring forward the Budget on the grounds that the Government is a shambles, does it end there? Or if indeed their thesis is correct and the Government is in shambles, can you convince them to bring the Government back so they can call an election?


Samantha, thank you for the enquiry. The focus this week is on passing the Senate voting reforms and getting those through the Senate. This is a critical piece of democracy. As you know the Senate voting system which allowed preferences to be allocated or determined in backroom deals by so-called preference whispers was gaming the system, it was anti-democratic, everyone recognised that and the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters unanimously, including the Labor Party and the Greens, of course, agreed that the changes that are now in the Senate should be made. In fact, there was no stronger advocate of these changes than Gary Gray, their very experienced former

General Secretary and of course Shadow Minister. So the Labor Party's opposition to these changes just shows an extraordinary political cynicism and hypocrisy. I mean this is, in May this year, May last year, Gary Gray was speaking in the House lamenting that action hadn't been taken to make these reforms. Well they're happening now but note that they’re being strenuously opposed by the Labor Party. The only focus we have for the Senate's work this week is directed at ensuring that this, the most important institution in our democratic system, the Parliament, is more democratic, more transparent, more accountable. The changes will serve to do that.


In your capacity as a tactician of some repute…




…is it your view you can recall the Senate earlier without the permission of the Senate? Is there a mechanism in your mind that exists that enables you to do that?


Well Phil, you know what's important is the Government just gets on with the job of creating jobs and growth in our economy and transitioning from the old economy to a new economy. Now I know the press gallery in Canberra are obsessed about things like election timing and when Parliament sits but I have to tell you I spent the weekend and Adelaide Cup Day in my electorate talking to my voters and not one person raised the issue of bringing forward the Budget or the Senate debating any of these issues. What they're concerned about is that we have the policies to create jobs and growth, which we do, and that they're concerned on the other side that Labor is a risk to the burgeoning economy that Malcolm Turnbull is presiding over.


Prime Minister, how about the same question to you then. Has the Government received any advice - do you need the Senate to approve an extra sitting week?


Well it, I'm pleased that you are interested in these issues but it's not for me to give you advice, David, on matters of that kind. Let me just say that the Government's focus is on ensuring that the Senate passes the Senate voting reform legislation this week and that is the, it is a short week, we only have three days scheduled, of course, and it's critically important that that is done. And if that is done, that will be a great blow for democracy and it will ensure that the winners are not any political party, but the voters. They will determine where their preferences go. It will be putting real authority back in the hands of Australian citizens who can allocate their preferences as they see fit.


Prime Minister how can you maintain any pressure on the crossbench with a threat of a double dissolution if the ABCC bill doesn't go into the Senate until Budget day on May 10?


Well Sid, this is the stuff of columns but what I - for you to write - no, no, I retired as a journalist many years ago. I will leave it to you. You're much more capable. Look you’re a, write about that stuff if you wish. Can I just say to you that the focus for this week is Senate voting reform and the focus of this media conference, which I regret to say - and look it is nothing personal, don’t think it’s, it's Christopher and I failed to inspire one question about innovation - is there a question - one more question if it is on innovation?


It is about cigarettes...



Thank you all very much, great to see you. Thanks a lot.