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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 4007


Ms MacTIERNAN (Perth) (16:11): It is truly a pleasure to be able to step up and support this bill. It represents a considerable path forward for Australia in coming to terms with innovation. But first, I will respond to one of the comments that was made by the previous speaker, the member for Lyons. The member for Chifley pointed out that one of our concerns about this bill is the fact that we are delaying the start date for this bill, and that this was having an impact on the sector to the extent of what one might call 'a capital strike'. The previous speaker, the member for Lyons, has suggested that that was a nonsensical idea, that no-one would not invest in a good project simply for the tax incentive. That is really quite a nonsensical statement. The very fact that we have this legislation here, which is providing an attractive tax framework for angel investors, says that these incentives are in fact useful and worthwhile and will aid companies coming to the fore.

I want to indicate my support for the comments that were made by the member for Chifley in this regard. I think it is unfortunate that the introduction and start date for this particular package has been delayed, because that is having the impact of slowing down the investment as people quite understandably await for the new arrangements to be in place in order for them to have a tax effective investment.

Speaking more generally, the need for a whole raft of legislation, government response and policy in this area cannot be underestimated. We rank very poorly in the OECD. When you look at the overall innovation, we come up reasonably well, but, when you unpack it, you see that we do well particularly in the inputs and we do far less well in the outputs. In terms of some of the basics of education and university research, we are doing reasonably well, but that is not translating into the production of innovative enterprises. We are not taking those necessary parts of the cycle, where we are educating and skilling up our people and doing research in academic institutions or other research bodies, and turning them into viable business opportunities that will create jobs and economic opportunity in this country. Clearly, 'business as usual' is not the path forward.

What we have in the bill here before us today, a package of tax incentives for angel investors, is an important part of the process but certainly not the only response that we need. Investment in research and in early-stage commercialisation of that research by government entities is very, very important. Indeed, there are some commentators in this area that suggest that that might even be a more effective way of promoting innovation than spend money on tax incentives. I think it is very interesting to look at ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and just how effective they have been in fostering innovation in the renewable energy space. Their approach of focusing on early commercialisation, helping companies through the 'valley of death', as it is called, has been producing some quite spectacular results. As I say, this bill is an important measure, but it is part of a suite of measures that we need in order to move forward.

Part of what I think we need to do too is to support initiatives that bring innovative start-ups together with large enterprises—which, because of the very nature of their structure, the need to protect their reputation and the rather bureaucratic structures they have, are not always the best places for fostering a culture of innovation. As we have seen happen very extensively in Europe, when these very large companies get together and collaborate with those in the start-up innovation space, you get some pretty dynamic results. I have been asked to speak for a bit longer here, to keep this going, but it is a pleasure to do so because I think there is some really important, exciting stuff happening.

In Perth we recently had an event called the Unearthed Perth Hackathon 2016. The Perth hackathon has now been in place for a couple of years. It is where the collaborative workspace group Spacecubed, led very ably by Brodie McCulloch, get companies in our resources sector to frame a problem or an issue that they have and then teams working in competition with each other come up with solutions to that particular technical problem. At one of the first hackathons, a very successful project involved Rio Tinto's problem of very large rocks coming into the crusher. The train would come in, and, if there was a very large rock in the mix, they would often have to shut down the crusher for quite some time while they went in manually and found this very large rock and got it out so operations could resume—a very costly issue for such companies, particularly as they want to speed their stuff through and given, as we know, the margins on iron ore are nowhere near what they used to be. At this hackathon, the winning team had noticed that, when there was a large rock in the train, the train vibrated differently. So they were actually able to predict when there was a large rock in the train before it went into the crusher. Work is continuing now on that idea.

At the hackathon that was held earlier this month—another great success—one of the big issues that they were trying to deal with was put to them by Woodside, about how you maximise deck space on oil and gas vessels and how you maximise scheduling. Some great, sophisticated algorithms have been developed by the teams that were competing.

I think that sort of activity, where large companies work with companies that are more flexible, nimble and agile because they lie outside those big corporate structures, is a great way forward, and I want to compliment the Unearthed mob in Perth on doing such a good job in bringing this together.

I am very pleased to say that my very good friend the member for Chifley and I went out to see the premises of FLUX, the latest collaborative workplace that is being developed in Perth, and to see the new resources hub that will form part of that, right on St Georges Terrace, which will be under the able leadership of Tamryn Barker. So some really fantastic stuff is going on, and, as I said, we need to have in place a whole suite of measures to encourage innovation.

I want to also acknowledge a submission that was made to the education committee in the last week of sitting, by Zoe Piper. Zoe is from Allaran and she has presented ideas to various parliamentary groups. The idea is to conduct a project similar to what Unearthed do in their hackathons with the resources sector, but with the public sector. Rather than government trying to come up with an answer to various problems, be it something like the Centrelink computer or one of the many other administrative problems and, often, failing spectacularly—rather than go out to contract for a predetermined solution to the problem—allow this level of engagement in the formulation of the solution to the problem. I thought it was a very interesting idea.

I would like, in the final few minutes I have here, to pick up some of the points that the member for Chifley made about what the true nature of a bipartisan approach might look like. It cannot simply be the government saying: 'This is our idea. We want you to agree with it,' and that is bipartisanship. The community, in general, is wanting us to do better on this. We have seen a great amount of goodwill, in this innovation area, across parliament and I compliment all of those who have been involved in the development of the various friends of innovation groups. But, particularly in this area, people are so over the adversarial style of politics that we are going to be in a very challenging and competitive environment, internationally. I would like to think that this is a space where we could start growing up a little bit as a parliament, moving beyond the adversarial structures that are inherent in this place, and devising a path forward where we truly have a committee system dealing with this, where we want to embrace the ideas of all sides or parts of parliament to forge our way forward.

There is great opportunity here. We have a whole new Zeitgeist, a whole new energy that is coming within our community around this space. People are wanting to get out there and create new ideas—not just pizza apps but really substantial innovation and new ways of thinking of things. That is what keeps this a very exciting space: the challenge of looking at a problem from a totally different perspective. That is going to be a challenge for this parliament. If we are to retain our relevance into the 21st century, I believe that the old adversarial structures on which we are absolutely predicated will need a great deal of reform. With that, I conclude my remarks.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): I thank the member for Perth for a sterling effort.

Debate adjourned.