Sinclair has described the Government’s release of the “Industry and Innovation” statement as red tape and protectionism.
Chris Berg concluded it was “a couple of tokenistic, bureaucratic measures”, candy for the union protectionists without this ever being able to take hold. He might be right but the new policy contains a troubling attempt by the government to insert commissars, who, in Minerals Council chief, Mitch Hooke’s words, “will embed public servants inside companies”. This is a replay of the corporatist aspirations of the “Australia Reconstructed” industry policy that was the original Hawke-Button approach.
In this respect, one of the architects of the plan, Roy Green sees it as a means of cultivating a series of silicon valleys in Australia. Though disappointed that the government is funding this from reducing R&D support, he thinks that having governments, government research institutions and private enterprise all being brought together will generate the dynamism of the so-far unreplicated high tech area based on Palo Alto.
Professor Green talks of creating new cluster industries with, “smart specialisation in enabling technologies, strong connections to global networks and supply chains and an application of non-technological forms of innovation such as new business models, design thinking and systems integration.” His views are supported by other bureaucratic drones, like CSIRO’s Megan Clark, seeking to grab a table-setting for institutions unable to win commercial support by their own efforts.
Those in taxpayer funded sheltered workshops dream of establishing strategic control positions from which they can pull levers and the treasure trove of new “clean” high tech unionized jobs entices other freeloaders. The “indicative planning” and “nudging” of commercial activities into areas selected by the great and good is the modern version of nationalized industries, harnessing private enterprise and directing firms into business prospects that it is said they are inherently incapable of finding for themselves.
It is an indictment of hubris of those whose salaries are earned by political entrepreneurship rather than that of the market that they should continuously develop fresh means of creating relevance for themselves. With characteristic understatement Sinc says, “Innovation and smart thinking will play a huge role. It isn’t clear that government can add value beyond making it easier to do business”.
My own contribution in The Australian and more comprehensively in Quadrant, is to call for a dismantling of the industry policy government expenditures. At best these are a waste of taxpayer money. And, as the new Gillard plan illustrates, they may bring negative value-added in distracting firms from meeting the needs of customers into avenues that may provide some government cash but entail endless rounds of meetings and consultations.