Dinh Nguyen | 16 May 2019
This Saturday, Australians will scramble to the polling booths for their obligatory democracy snag, and agonising line up, to vote for our next Prime Minister. Among the litany of bright advertising campaigns and TV appearances, there is one looming undercurrent that cannot be ignored – the fact that we could potentially [correction: will] be inaugurating Australia’s 8thPrime Minister in the last 10 years - the almighty Bill Shorten for Labor.
But that’s not the most concerning.
It goes without saying that this election is quite simply Labor’s to lose, and with the recent election polls indicating it won’t be a win, but rather a landslide, the focus has now shifted to the repercussions on market performance and industry investments for those in the IT industry, for which CircuIT Recruitment largely services.
So where do we begin?
The incumbent Coalition party has enjoyed spruiking their commitment to economic stability through continued investment in technology, science, R&D and innovation, whilst the opposition of Labor and the Greens are feeding their campaign on sensationalised notions of ‘welcomed disruption’. Where the previous two elections focused on the disaster that was - and still is - the NBN roll out, 2019’s technology-related policies have focussed more on artificial intelligence and space industry development instead.
Sounds like they’re both aligned around the needs of the technology market, but what does this mean for the industry players, and CircuIT’s clients?
Like any policy announcement, those in the industry aren’t relaxing with their cup of tea just yet. On the surface it may be hard to differentiate between genuine policy promises and the familiar policy grabs to woo potential voters, but a closer look will help you to prepare for what’s to come in our predicted new Government.
To cut through the overzealous media campaigns and overwhelm that is filling up our screens two days out from the election, I’ve taken a deep dive into the detail and am here to shed some light on issues that will deeply affect CircuIT’s clients and candidates alike.
The Labor party has focused the majority of their campaign on reigning in the activity and financial abundance in the “top end of town”, which has also taken front and centre on their promise to the technology industry. As expected, it is pledging to reduce tax avoidance from multinational companies (MNCs) by halving the current $200million threshold for public reporting of private companies’ tax data.
On the flipside of this, Labor has also promised to reinvest this potential surplus into providing tax relief for smaller businesses and reducing the corporate tax rate to 25 per cent by 2021-22. Proving that they could indeed revitalise a dormant and sometimes undervalued part of the IT industry.
Liberal – whilst articulated differently – is also promising to clamp down on tax avoidance by MNCs and providing tax relief to smaller businesses as a way of encouraging continued investment in the technology sector and stimulating our economy.
Same same, but different.
And for the moment, it’s 1-All.
The skills discussion in Australian Technology has always brought with it feelings of contention, uncertainty and frustration. The number one issue facing leadership in the sector today is the ongoing need for skilled workers that can compete with their international counterparts, as they show up and fight for air time on the global IT stage. Naturally, this has been a massive painpoint for a bulk of CircuIT’s clients, coupled with recruitment agencies such as ours.
This has been made more challenging since the campaign of 2016 when Malcolm Turnbull made the decision to transform the 457 skilled-visa process, making it more difficult to employ skilled migrants. And so today, the skill debate continues, becoming an obvious power play and quick-win from the Labor Government in this year’s election campaign.
Unsurprisingly Labor is taking this seemingly poorly received decision by the previous Liberal party and running with it, pledging to invest $200m into TAFE campuses across the country to encourage greater usage of our vocational education system as well as pushing to remove the cap for university places to improve capability and skills shortages in Australia.
All sounds quite promising, right? Now here’s the devil in the detail…
The most important take-away, however, is Labor’s commitment to formalising causal contracts to include similar entitlements as those who are under more permanent working arrangements. The motivation beneath this policy is to create a secure working environment for our casual employment industry, but for the tech giants playing in the ever-growing Gig economy, there are significant concerns that it will undermine the flexibility of low-cost informal and casual workers such as those for Uber and Deliveroo.
Liberal – 2, Labor - 1
“Consumers and taxpayers have every right to be angry with the Liberals for delivering a second-rate network that costs more and does less,” says Labor’s very pointed policy. And unfortunately for Liberal, there is no hiding from this one.
Labor has seized the NBN opportunity and heavily spruiking its promise to invest in reviewing and ‘fixing’ the mess that has engulfed Australia’s Liberal party since its inception … and since we were ranked 62 in the world for connectivity and broadband speeds. This type of investment could increase job numbers, industry funding and future opportunity for ongoing improvements to the network. Definitely a big tick for the industry, and of course the people of Australia who need (insert: demand) a superior broadband network.
It is likely that this alone will sway young impressionable Australians, broadly geared around internet streaming and gaming speeds, to vote Labor.
Liberal – 2, Labor – 2
In some shape or form, research and development flows into most areas of the IT and greater-tech industry. The sexier of these include blockchain, AI and space tech, and its these obvious targets that have consumed the tech-related policies for both the Coalition and Labor.
Both parties have expressed their commitment in funding research in each of these areas, agreeing that they are crucial tools in the future of our burgeoning tech industry. Where the parties seem to divide however is in Research and Development as a portfolio itself – Labor has been quite vocal about increasing their overall spend on R&D from 1.8% of GDP to 3% and 4% respectively. Ironically, the current Coalition, and wisely I might add, hasn’t made the plug to increase R&D spend, choosing to instead focus on business stimulus, and jobs & skills, which within the scheme of things, is paramount to sustaining the private IT R&D sector.
Liberal – 3, Labor – 2
Given Australian’s penchant to vote for the sake of change, it is largely inevitable that Labor will triumph in 72 hours’ time. And whilst that may prove promising for some areas of Australia’s economy, there still remains critical question marks over Labor’s ability to continue investing in and invigorating the IT industry.
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