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Claim: Queensland needs a “Silicon Reef”

Palmer United - Raising the stakes in the Australian High Tech Debate

Palmer United – Raising the stakes in the Australian High Tech Debate

The Palmer United Party has upped the stakes in the Queensland State Election, by claiming that the state government should be doing more to “embrace” innovation and startup companies, to help improve the Queensland economy.

According to Startupsmart:

Alan Birrell, who is running for the seat of Townsville, told StartupSmart the LNP’s vision of a four-pillar economy based on agriculture, construction, resources and tourism was missing a crucial fifth pillar: technology.

“We need to add a fifth dimension to our economy and from an innovation base we can put money in the right places and give it to the right people with the right ideas which helps create jobs,” he says.

“I don’t think it’s an easy task, but it is a worthwhile task.”

Birrell says Queensland’s Parliament could do with more entrepreneurial thinkers instead of politicians with a strict ideological view.

“We have far too many politicians who are professional politicians and hence they are very willing to toe the party line rather than be out there with original ideas and concepts,” he says.

As principle of a startup, I’m a little wary of governments intervening too heavily in the market. I don’t have time to navigate the thickets of red tape, to secure a government handout – as Britain has discovered, too much well meaning targeted intervention tends to fill the pockets of organisations which are focussed on milking the system, rather than creating real value.

As The Register reports;

Silicon Roundabout is, essentially, a prank on the media. Let’s see who’s involved. You’ve got what I call faux capitalists – people who want to be thought of as capitalists but are terrified of risk and don’t back ambitious high-risk ventures. You’ve got entrepreneurs who can’t run a business. And you’ve got programmers who can’t program. All looking for each other. Then there’s a vast army of hangers-on: mentors, facilitators. And they all socialise endlessly, instead of doing any work. The socialising is work.

This does not create wealth.

As soon as we start to “un-fetishise” this myth of two guys in a garage, and start to think more seriously about, say, payment platforms or credit systems that make buying stuff nice and easy, as easy as real life, then we’ll create markets. You won’t get this from Shoreditch.

The measures which would really help in my opinion are cost reductions. The great thing about reducing costs is you don’t have to do any bureaucrat chasing to secure the benefit, you just have to get your head down and run your business.

For example, Tax is high in Australia, compared to other Asian startup centres such as Hong Kong and Singapore. This puts startups in Australia at a critical disadvantage during the early years, when they aren’t really making much money, but are paying what they make to the government.

The high cost of Electricity is an issue (Australia has one of the highest electricity rates in the Western World) if you are running a lot of high tech electronic equipment – especially if you also need to run an air conditioner, to keep it all from overheating.

The high cost of fuel is also a critical issue. While fuel has come down in price recently, a substantial cut to government taxes on fuel would make a significant difference to business activity. Even in this high tech age, I spend a lot of my time driving to conferences to network and meet potential clients.

It remains to be seen whether anything concrete will come of well meaning by often misguided attempts to create a better environment for startups and innovators – but at least politicians are thinking about it, and appear to recognise that fostering business is a priority for kickstarting domestic economic growth.

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