Tech industry reps could do more to gain dedicated federal minister, says Adir Shiffman

cabinet-reshuffle-tech

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Source: AAP/Mick Tsikas.

The tech industry will complain that the federal cabinet reshuffle announced on Friday has failed to create a dedicated Science and Technology Minister.

As usual, there will be hand-wringing quotes in the dailies and lots of aggression, following the news that the industry portfolio would be split in two, with Defence Minister Melissa Price to take responsibility for science and technology and Energy Minister Angus Taylor to take on industry. 

And largely the industry will be right. This is the wrong decision and a very poor one, regardless of the capability of the minister.

But where they will be wrong is in solely blaming the federal government. In fact, the representative bodies themselves should accept equal blame.

For years I’ve watched these bodies — particularly the newer ones — fail to engage with government in a manner that captures support.

I am not particularly close to this federal government, but I have also been privy to some of the views from the inside.

There is a perception that industry ‘representatives’ demonstrate a lack of humility, favour the Labor opposition, only ever ask for money, and engage in frequent public attacks.

There are many in the Coalition Government that are huge supporters of the innovation economy, starting with the Treasurer and including people like Andrew Bragg and Jason Falinski, among many others.

The federal government is making a huge mistake by failing to prioritise technology and innovation. It needs to become the driver of Australian exports. The Christian Porter appointment was also clearly a big error.

But senior leaders in local tech and particularly self-ordained roof bodies need to take responsibility too.

To be fair, some of the bigger names in the industry have had success at state level in New South Wales, and that state has broken away as a clear innovation leader.

But if these industry bodies are to justify their membership fees, they must develop better engagement, or we will continue to see the sector ignored by Canberra.

Compared to other business groups, like the Business Council of Australia or the Minerals Council, they are invisible.

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