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Visas for entrepreneurs: Labor unveils plans to lure ‘smartest minds on the planet’ to Australia

Posted on September 28, 2015
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An entrepreneurial visa program could turbo-charge the nation’s tech start-up scene, according to the Federal Opposition.

If elected, Labor is promising to entice 2,000 international students to stay in Australia for another year after they graduate from university, if they have a credible start-up business idea.

Another 2,000 places will be offered to lure entrepreneurs from overseas to set up shop in Australia.

“We need to be in the global competition for the smartest minds on the planet,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said.

“There’s lot of good reasons to come and live in Australia, we have a great lifestyle, a great quality of life.

“We have been looking at what’s best practice in the world.

“It is a very small cost to offer 2,000 entrepreneur visas to people who would bring some capital and also backing their ideas, it is a very small cost to help say to international students ‘we would like you to stay here and back your idea’.”

Labor’s plans for the sector also extent to university loans, with plans to fund up to 2,000 early-stage technology start-ups a year.

The “Start Up Year” scheme would be targeted at final-year students looking to start a new business and would work in tandem with university incubator programs.

At a cost of $5 million per year, loans of up to about $10,000 would be made through the existing Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS), which helps students cover the cost of their higher education.

Turnbull’s interest in digital economy welcomed

Labor’s latest digital offering comes as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull looks to recast the Government’s focus on innovation and technology.

“We’ve now got two leaders in Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull who get this,” Opposition communications spokesman Jason Clare told the ABC.

He said he welcomed the interest Mr Turnbull was showing in the digital economy.

“Until now this has been a boutique debate,” he said, adding that it needed to considered alongside mainstream traditional economic issues.

“This is the main game.

“Forty per cent of jobs that exist today will be destroyed by technology and replaced by computers over the next decade or so.”

Mr Turnbull was Communications Minister before being elevated to the role of Prime Minister.

Mr Clare said he hoped that would mean a more bipartisan approach on issues such as Labor’s proposal to teach computer programming languages to every primary school student by 2020.

“Tony Abbott said that was a silly idea,” he said.

“Malcolm Turnbull said it was a smart idea.

“I hope he picks up and supports [the Start Up Year] policy as well because it’s the next stage.”

State governments need to cooperate as well: Lyn Hay

The announcement was cautiously welcomed by the Business Innovation and Incubation Association of Australia.

“Getting investment in start-ups and particularly the development of technology is a positive step forward,” said association chair Lyn Hay.

“Obviously there are quite a number of young people who are looking to create jobs for themselves and jobs for others by creating their own companies.

“I think that if that’s done through the education sector or university sector, there’s a high likelihood of them getting appropriate structure, support and mentoring in that process.”

But Ms Hay said such a policy would not remove all barriers to success for Australian tech start-ups, which would require state government cooperation as well.

“Not all companies and all businesses at early stages of growth can afford to invest themselves in commercialising their IP [Intellectual Property] and commercialising technology,” she said.

“Obviously the process as we know in our experience in incubation can take many years.

“So I think it’s important that we end up with consistency.”

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