Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News AM Agenda – Wednesday 15 October 2014





SUBJECT/S: Employee share schemes; Crowd funding; STEM skills; Man Booker Prize

KIERAN GILBERT: And we are joined now by Labor frontbencher Jason Clare to talk about a number of other issues. Jason Clare first to you on this Innovation Statement by the Government, the Industry and Innovation Agenda, there must be parts of this that you agree with the Government on, given they reflect large chunks of what Labor was doing in terms of identifying the nations strengths, industries where we do well and basically marking the end of protectionism and trying to prop up areas that we don’t do so well?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Kieran you would struggle to find a Government that’s done more damage to Australian industry than this one, whether it’s the car industry, or what they are threatening to do to the ship building industry, or for that matter the submarine building industry, or the $9 billion dollars that they’ve ripped out of education and science and industry.

There are some things in here that we support. We’ve been calling for reform to employee share schemes for startups since March and the Government’s done nothing on that. Finally they’ve announced that they are going to do something but as Ed Husic said on the program just moments ago, in other areas like crowd funding for the startup industry, we saw nothing in this report, in this plan, yesterday. The Australian tech industry is desperately screaming out for that. We’ve got companies heading from Australia to New Zealand to take up their crowd funding system that starts next month because they don’t expect anything to happen here in Australia for another year or two.

GILBERT: What sort of thing are you specifically talking about, crowd funding, define what that means in terms of nascent or tech companies just kicking off?

CLARE A typical small startup tech company will tell you that they can easily get access to a small amount of money to start up. It might be money from family, might be money from friends and they might be able to get up to, if they are lucky,1 million or 2 million dollars. Once they are off the ground and they are successful they can get more than 10 million dollars from the banks or venture capitalists or angel investors, but that gap in between 1 million or 2 million dollars and 5 million dollars or 10 million dollars is where our industry struggles and crowd funding provides an opportunity for people to invest small amounts of money, a large number of people to invest small amounts of money in these sorts of companies.

It’s illegal at the moment in Australia but it’s being started in the United States, it’s starting in New Zealand next month and it’s started in a number of other countries. The tech industry is saying, this is not a panacea but it will help us to get great ideas off the ground and there was nothing about it in the industry policy yesterday.

GILBERT: The Minister concerned, Bruce Billson, has rejected that suggestion that there is nothing in it, saying that it has been addressed and I guess by looking at the area, these five growth areas, isn’t there scope to enhance a focus on something like you are talking about here, crowd funding as you go. Obviously it’s something that’s just developing in Silicon Valley, in the United States now. Isn’t it something that would be a working progress?

CLARE: Kieran, I was in Silicon Valley with Malcolm Turnbull in January. Malcolm came back from those visits and said we are going to do this in Australia. That was January. The next month I came out and I backed him and said yes this is important and we need to do it. It’s now October and still nothing has happened. They’ve had a report on their desk outlining how to do this now for months and it’s time that the Government actually did something serious about this.

The other point I’d make is skills, 75 per cent of the jobs that are going to be created over the next few decades are going to require skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and we just don’t get enough people through our universities with those skills and qualifications now and there is very little in this policy to change that. They are talking about $12 million to help our schools, they’ve ripped $9 billion dollars out of our schools and they are talking about getting McDonalds to come in and help our schools teach engineering and science and mathematics. Well it’s one thing to put Macca’s into schools, I think they should be putting some real money into our schools.

GILBERT: I want to ask you finally as the Shadow Communications Minister about some good news overnight, Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan has won the Man Booker Literary Prize, becoming just the fourth Australian to receive the prestigious award. The Duchess of Cornwell presented the 53 year-old with the prize, it’s worth about $90,000 but of course it’s worth a lot more in terms of the literary world. This was for Mr Flanagan’s novel the Narrow Road to the Deep North. You obviously welcome this news, this gong for the well-known Tasmanian author.

CLARE: It’s fantastic news for him and fantastic news for Australia. We’ve got a great tradition of producing wonderful writers in Australia and this is just the latest example of that.

GILBERT: Jason Clare, appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for that, we’ll chat to you soon.

CLARE: Thanks Kieran.