Tech gives budget a measured tick
The Australian Computer Society said it welcomed the budget’s support of start-ups but there needed to be a refocus on skilling the workforce.
“More needs to be done, particularly in education, in order for Australia to remain competitive and prosperous in today’s fast-paced digital economy”, the society’s chief executive Andrew Johnson said.
He said start-ups were drivers of innovation and jobs, so it was critical the Government created an environment that supported and encouraged them, and kept them in Australia.
The government has removed long-running achilles heels for start-ups involving crowd sourced equity funding and share schemes. Once implemented, employee share schemes would no longer be taxed upfront, typically before a start-up generated revenue.
Mr Johnson welcomed the 1.5 per cent tax cut for small businesses.
“However while these initiatives are encouraging and a move in the right direction, much more needs to be done,” he said.
“In today’s globally connected digital world, our education and training systems need to place a far higher priority on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills, including information and communication technology skills.”
He said 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations in the future required people with these skills.
Cloud service specialist Bulletproof said while there were good individual initiatives such as the $254m investment in digital transformation, there seemed a lack of “joined-up thinking” in the budget this year.
Group director of sales and marketing, Mark Randall said the government should use existing lower-cost cloud vendors instead of spending $17.6m on a new AFP data centre.
He said making employee share options in start-ups no longer be taxable upfront brought Australia in line with other OECD nations.
“While there could arguably be some negativity around the cuts to the entrepreneurs infrastructure program, the effect of the other measures in stimulating private sector activity will significantly offset this reduction.”
StartupAUS said the budget lacked focus on the needs of tech start-ups.
“Despite an encouraging move by the government to back small business, this year’s budget does not address the needs of a vital part of Australia’s economy: its tech start-up ecosystem,” the organisation said in a statement.
“StartupAUS is pleased to see moves by the Government to support crowdsourced equity funding and to fix the tax treatment of employee share schemes. We also applaud financial measures that make it easier for Australians to start new companies.
“However, we believe an overall strategy is needed to accelerate the growth of Australia’s tech sector and to bring Australia in line with the rest of the world when it comes to supporting start-ups.”
The organisation cited confusion on the differing needs of small businesses and start-ups, a lack of commitment to creating and implementing a national innovation strategy, a lack of investment in appropriate education and no investment in improving the funding climate for Australian start-ups.
“For inspiration we need look no further than our neighbours in New Zealand, Singapore and China as exemplars of national networks of government-supported start-up incubators aimed at accelerating the growth of their national tech start-up ecosystems.”
StartupAUS board member Dr Jana Matthews said if Australia was to remain “the lucky country”, it needed to evolve, and shift from programs focused on extraction to commercialising innovation and growing companies.
Well known Sydney entrepreneur Jonathan Barouch, who runs a successful start-up called Local Measure, said a lack of appropriate venture capital was sending Australian tech start-ups offshore.
“While the small business package is a welcome budget measure, the start-up sector still needs a different kind of specialist support if it is to produce more billion-dollar success stories like Atlassian.”
He said there were huge holes in the venture capital market and capital was still hard to find, forcing Australian companies offshore.
“ Start-ups need expedited access to skills and an easier 457 visa experience for highly technical skills.”