Australia’s peak body for innovation technology has called for a digital economy minister to be appointed within the Labor cabinet to urgently fix the crippling skills shortage.

“Our sector could easily employ 1.5 million Australians in the next few years if the government addresses our skills shortage and supports the sector,” Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) CEO Ron Gauci said.

The proposed role would oversee policy and regulation of the tech sector, promote new training and education, and make Australia a leading digital government so the nation can achieve top 10 digital economy status by 2030.

Australia has dropped on the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Global Innovation Index during the Morrison government, having fallen five places to 25 over the past three years.

The sector fights for staff in a global talent pool, and risks the loss of ground-breaking ideas to rival economies without internationally competitive research, tax and investment policy settings.

Commercialisation of Australian intellectual property needs greater support to continue to deliver growth and jobs in Australia, ensuring our IP is not sold overseas, Mr Gauci said.

Australian Computer Society president Nick Tate said Labor’s plans to build an advanced manufacturing sector will require a strong national investment in digital skills as well as incentives for business to invest in emerging technologies.

Under the Future Made in Australia policy, Labor pledged to provide up to $15 billion of capital through loans, equity and guarantees to projects in resources, agriculture, transport, medical science, defence technology, and renewable energy and low emissions technologies.

Australian businesses who could be providing goods and services have been missing out on billions of dollars of government contracts, according to Labor.

A Made in Australia Office is expected to be established within the prime minister’s own department to support local firms.

Labor has also promised to fix the reach and quality of the NBN and keep it in public ownership, with 90 per cent of Australians to have access to world-class gigabit speeds by 2025.

Civica executive Ben Cowling says the ambitious reform agenda for the social housing, health and care sectors depends on accelerating the pace of digital transformation across public services.

The Insurance Council has urged Labor to reset policy to bolster the resilience of Australia’s digital environment, including a sustainable cyber insurance market.

The AIIA is calling for a separate research and development software tax incentive and an expansion of the limited scope of a “patent box” proposed by the previous government.

The planned patent box would have taxed business income from Australian medical and biotechnology patents at a concessional rate of 17 per cent, effective July 1.

But ex-Treasurer Josh Frydenberg failed to pass the 2021/22 budget measure into law before the end of the last parliament.

Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)