A lot of talk today about the PM’s 2020 summit of 1000 smart Australians. There’s apparently some voting going on in the Blogosphere, but I must be having a I don’t get Laurel today day as I’m not sure how to work the voting part out.
I’ll try to be positive and hope that if there is a tech stream (which given neither party had an ICT policy at the election… it’s doubtful) that we’ll have people outside of the self important media/ closed shop big tech companies who think that lowly bloggers are beneath them. Folks who care about innovation and Web 2.0, and not just feathering their own nests and solidifying their positions…which unfortunately is a solid block of our so-called experts.
If, by some miracle of miracles someone gets to go to this who represents me, and people like me, here’s what needs fixing, pronto.
1. Capital Gains Tax Reform
I’m not a tax expert, but my understanding is that it’s easy to roll over capital gains in the United States on tech investments without paying tax as you go, where as the ability to defer CGT on tech investments is difficult, if not impossible in Australia. So instead of a vibrant tech investment community in the US, we have instead a small (even in proportion to our size) investment community that expects blood from a stone in many cases because they’ve got to pay tax on every exit straight up. There may be other solutions to the tax treatment on tech/ Web 2.0 investments so I’m open to suggestions. Possibilities include similar schemes to the Film Investment subsidy and various treatments of things like Tree Farms. OK, so I perhaps don’t want to see Web 2.0 investments in Australia become like tree farms, but I can tell you one thing: there’s a bloody lot more jobs in tech and it’s better for the economy + environment 🙂
2. Government Investment in Web 2.0
This was someone elses idea but I don’t remember who’s it was. The proposal is to set up a future fund style investment program at the Federal level of $1 billion which will invest in small scale tech/ Web 2.0 startups. My natural inclination is to not favor Government intervention but tax relief, but given the Government is talking about making big savings and cutting back on expenditure, an investment program such as this would be an investment in a “clever country” and future jobs, whilst not being inflationary (in the most). It would also force the private sector to become more competitive in its investments as well, where as today there’s just not enough competition there.
3. (Real) High Speed Internet
I kept laughing at the last election when both sides kept promising “high” speed broadband that really isn’t that highspeed. We need to accelerate the roll out of real high speed internet access, ie: internet access over 100mbps. Places like Hong Kong already have speeds this high at a low cost, and others are quickly gaining access as well. We need to lead in broadband speeds, not always be 2 or 3 steps behind. This is even more so because of our location: we are behind the 8 ball with distance but with world class high speed broadband the world gets that much closer. It’s also vital in growing a decent Web 2.0 and tech sector in a climate that is quickly favoring video and more bandwidth intensive services.
Solution: structural separation of Telstra. Tax breaks to those offering true high speed internet access. Consider making internet access a tax deduction (which I think in part the Government is already doing)
4. Drop the Australian content rules on Pay TV
This may seem like a strange point, but Government regulation has created a monopoly Pay TV provider in Australia (Foxtel) that charges insanely high prices. The main reason there isn’t widespread competition is the Australian content rules. The Government needs to drop it and make it easier for new players to come in. Oh, but that will adversely affect Australian content creators you say! Actually, it will help them. Foxtel is a closed shop, new providers would be more open to content provision from all levels, including Web 2.0 related fields. Whilst it’s true that Foxtel actually helps drive internet use in Australia, we’d be better off with more choice and therefore better access to TV platforms, particularly as the line between the Internet and TV starts to blur. Perhaps certain open access provisions should be built in (in terms of channel/ provider access) to platforms as well: no Australian content rules in return for better variety and lower prices. Where do I sign up.
5. Entrench Free Speech in the Constitution
Australia has a growingly poor record in terms of free speech, although it has been good to see the Prime Minister defend the media over the Haneef affair. The threat of litigation has stifled a strong and vibrant alternative online media in Australia, where as our American colleagues have reasonable impunity. Free speech must be passed into legislation, and preferably added to the Constitution.
I’ll probably have more to add to this in the coming days. I’ll start doing some more research on the first point in particular so if someone will listen, I’ll have all the research and homework possible to give to them.
See also Stephen Collins’ 2020 Summit site here.