Kevin Rudd

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Why governments will always fail with technology projects like the NBN

8:25AM | Wednesday, 6 August

The National Broadband Network (NBN) was one of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s grand gestures. Sweeping to power in 2007, he quickly set to fixing Australia’s problems in education, health and productivity. Although it was clear that he only ever understood technology superficially, he netherless saw it as the answer to all of his country’s ills. Children in schools would get laptops, the health system would be reinvented through the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) and the nation would have the NBN to set it on the path of productivity levels to rival the Chinese.   Rudd commands “Make it so”   Rudd rode roughshod over any detail of these plans. He epitomised the spirit of StarTrek TV character Captain Picard by uttering the command “Make it so!”. Unlike Picard, who never carried out any action before considering it from every angle, Rudd was convinced that these gestures would both immortalise him and transform society and industry at a stroke.   As we now know however, nothing is that simple, and the digital education revolution died a relatively quick death leaving the NBN and PCEHR struggling for survival on life-support.   The NBN independent audit   The most recent audit report of the NBN, released this week, has ultimately judged the entire project as “rushed, chaotic and inadequate” and the stewards of the project, NBN Co as “not fit for purpose”.   The summary findings and recommendations of the audit do not specifically deal with the NBN project itself nor with the technological decisions that underpinned it. Instead, it recommends a range of measures to ensure proper oversight of election and other party promises and the way that the public service and government should work to ensure that this happens in future. One of the key proposals is that any project over $1 billion should be subject to a cost benefit analysis. The problem with this however is the same as for most of the recommendations made in this report. They sound good in principle, but are actually fairly meaningless in practice.   The devil in the benefits   Cost benefit analyses of even small projects are dubious at best. They are often heavily biased depending on the whether the people conducting them want to have a positive or negative outcome. This is reflected in both how one decides what benefits will flow from a project and how much value these benefits will generate. This is especially true of technology projects where the benefits are supposed.   With the NBN, the benefits of having universal high-speed broadband were assumed to come from all of the things this technology would enable government, public services, industry and the public at large to do. Hospitals would save $190 million over 10 years. Households would save $3,800 a year by 2020. This last figure included savings of $74 dollars a year on “communications through social engagement and social media”. Clearly, you could claim almost any benefit, especially if it comes from a reputable analyst firm like Deloitte Access Economics as this latter figure did.   Would an analysis have got it right?   Would a cost benefit analysis in 2008 have accurately predicted the technical landscape in 2014? Absolutely not. In 2008, nobody knew that the iPhone would change smartphone usage completely and drive universal adoption of highly powerful portable computers with 4G wireless network connectivity. Nobody would have foreseen the rapid change in how people access media, especially TV. Despite the lack of the NBN, Australia leads the world in illegal downloads of US TV shows like Game of Thrones. Mix into this the role of government in making technological bets that they barely understand and the establishment of a completely new company that is going to implement all of this within political, and not corporate, constraints, and you have a recipe for the disaster that unfolded.   Should governments be involved?   The findings of the audit are not surprising. Pretty much any analyst who has been watching the NBN disaster unfold for the past 6 years could have summarised the findings, or ones similar to it, without too much problem. Ultimately however, the question remains whether governments, and especially the Australian Federal Government, should be even in this business at all. It is very likely that the answer is no given the particular geographic and social challenges that Australia faces and its particular mix of telecommunications industries.   There is no disputing that Australia needs high speed networks. Clearly, they are not going to be provided by the Federal Government and so it is up to industry to step in and do this for commercial reasons. After all, the ultimate business case for building something is that there are customers wanting the service and that it makes enough money to support the business.   This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

THE NEWS WRAP: Abbott hoses down GST speculation

3:23PM | Thursday, 13 March

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has hosed down speculation of a GST increase after former treasury secretary Ken Henry called an increase to the tax “necessary”.   “Raising the GST rate one day will be seen as necessary to underpin fiscal sustainability in the Australian federation,” Henry said.   In response, Tony Abbott said the views of Henry were those of a private citizen.   “Ken Henry is a distinguished, retired federal public servant, he's a distinguished former secretary of the Treasury; he deserves to be listened to with respect.   “But they're just private views of a private citizen. We have a tax reform program, and tax reform begins with repeal of the carbon tax, the repeal of the mining tax.”   Reject Shop chairman says chief executive wasn’t pushed   The chairman of discount retailer The Reject Shop, Bill Stevens, has denied rumours former chief executive Chris Bryce was pressured to resign, after the chain announced a 16% slide in half-year profits last month.   On Thursday, Bryce announced his resignation from the retailer, effective this financial year, with the sudden announcement sparking speculation he had been pressured by the board to stand aside.   “The answer to that question [of Bryce being pressured] is unequivocally 'no'. This is entirely Chris' decision, and he has clearly looked at it from his perspective. Chris has his own reasons and part of it is it has been a solid four-and-a-half years as CEO,” Stevens says.   Qantas chairman blames Labor for productivity drop   Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford has lashed out at former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, claiming the repeal of Work Choices led to a drop in Labor productivity, in a speech to the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.   “The re-regulation of the labour market a few years back stalled the productivity improvement. Productivity went backwards – just as demand was softening and capital spending was slowing down.   “It is already too late for governments to invest the proceeds of the boom. Those proceeds have gone. We are now in need of major infrastructure investment like the second Sydney airport, as well as major roads and rail, at a time when government budgets are under pressure.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 16108.9. The Aussie dollar is up to US90.27 cents.

A decade of Facebook: 10 interesting things you don’t know about the social network

2:37AM | Tuesday, 4 February

Facebook is 10 years old today. It’s time for birthday celebrations for the social network with 12,800,000 Australian users and 1.19 billion users worldwide. But it’s also time to reflect on 10 interesting things you don’t know about the social network.   1. The social network makes more money now from mobiles than PCs   Facebook is worth around $US135 billion and has successfully made the shift to focusing on mobiles. In Facebook’s fourth quarter earning report filed on January 29 this year the social network disclosed that for the first time sales from ads on mobile phones and tablets exceeded revenue from traditional PCs.   In an interview marking Facebook’s 10th birthday, founder Mark Zuckerberg told Bloomberg the shift to mobile was “not as quick as it should have been”, but “one of the things that characterizes our company is that we are pretty strong-willed”.   2. Facebook tried to buy Snapchat   In 2012 Facebook bought Instagram for $US1 billion even though the photo sharing app had no revenue source. Zuckerberg described the deal as a milestone, saying "we don't plan on doing many more of these, if any at all"; but last year, Facebook reportedly offered $3 billion to buy Snapchat. On two occasions. Snapchat refused the offer.   3. Paper has just launched   Facebook’s latest creation is a newspaper-style app called Paper. Paper includes photos, friend updates, and shared articles in an image-heavy, uncluttered way. The stories are picked and ordered based largely on how much they are shared and “liked” on Facebook, with a team of human editors ensuring that the content comes from the right sources.   “Paper makes storytelling more beautiful with an immersive design and full-screen, distraction-free layouts,” Facebook states.   4. Zuckerberg and Facebook are all about goals   Zuckerberg told Bloomberg he has lots of goals for Facebook and for himself personally. Facebook’s founder has in previous years vowed to learn Mandarin (2010), to eat only animals he slaughtered himself (2011), and to meet someone new each day (2013). For 2014 he intends to write at least one well-considered thank-you note every day, via email or handwritten letter.   “It’s important for me, because I’m a really critical person,” he says. “I always kind of see how I want things to be better, and I’m generally not happy with how things are, or the level of service that we’re providing for people, or the quality of the teams that we built. But if you look at this objectively, we’re doing so well on so many of these things. I think it’s important to have gratitude for that.”   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Voting is the most talked about topic on Facebook   The 10 most talked about topics on Facebook in 2013 by Australian users were ‘vote’, Kate Middleton, cricket, Kevin Rudd, Grand Final, Election, GST, Lions, Tony Abbott and Big Brother.   6. It’s set to compete with Google   Over the next five years, Zuckerberg wants Facebook to become more intuitive and to solve problems that in some cases users don’t even know they have.   He wants to target the 5% and 10% of posts on Facebook where users pose questions to their friends, such as requests for the names for a good local dentist, or the best Indian restaurant.   Zuckerberg told Bloomberg the social network should do better at harvesting all that data to provide answers. A domain which is traditionally the preserve of search giant Google.   7. Users are a devoted bunch   Facebook users generally log in to the social network regularly and stay for long periods of time. The percentage of Facebook users that log in once a day is now 76% while the average time spent on Facebook per user per month is 8.3 hours.   8. Facebook is targeting developing countries   Facebook is targeting developing countries through the formation of a group called Internet.org with six other technology companies, including Samsung, Qualcomm and Ericsson.   The group is looking at simplifying their services so they can be delivered more economically over primitive wireless networks and tapped into using cheaper phones.   Zuckerberg says more users in undeveloped countries will subscribe to mobile services for the opportunity to use Facebook, which in turn makes it more economical for mobile operators to improve their wireless networks to support higher-bandwidth services such as online education and banking.   He has described early tests as “promising”.   9. Doomsayers warn Facebook could go into rapid decline   Researchers from Princeton University published a paper earlier this year suggesting Facebook might lose 80% of its users by 2017 entering a period of “rapid decline”.   “The application of disease-like dynamics to [online social network] adoption follows intuitively, since users typically join OSNs because their friends have already joined,” says the study, which is awaiting peer review.   Facebook has hit back at the work as “incredibly speculative” and used its own data engineers to use the same methods of "scholarly scholarliness" to prove that Princeton itself was on the brink of extinction.   10. It’s king of social referred traffic   Facebook is still the king for social referred traffic, according to Adobe’s most recent social intelligence report.   But Facebook is slowly losing ground to other social media, in particular Twitter and Pinterest.

Our top news stories for 2013

12:04AM | Monday, 23 December

There was plenty of news and activity affecting Australia’s start-ups over the past 12 months, as the sector absorbed political strife in the Labor Party, an election that saw the return of the Coalition and attempts by Apple to trademark “startup”.   It was also an interesting year for work trends, with the rise of online outsourcing and the expansion of co-working spaces around the country.   As dull as it might sound, tax policy was also on the radar of readers, especially consultation around potential changes to employee share schemes, which could have a significant impact on the way start-ups can remunerate early staff and attract the best talent.   All of which points to a busy 2014.   Politics   The election voters had long been waiting for to toss the Labor Party out of office finally arrived on September 7. There was plenty of interest in what the major parties would offer the start-up sector and small business. But ultimately, it was what the Coalition was offering that won over voters, although for start-ups, the impact was initially unclear.   But before the election, readers were also entranced by the internal warring in the Labor Party, with the attempt to topple Julia Gillard that never was in March before Kevin Rudd finally secured the numbers to return as prime minister – albeit for a short time to “save the furniture” and soften the electoral drubbing the party suffered.   Policy   Employee share schemes and how the rules around them might be changed to support start-ups was a major issue that generated plenty of discussion during the year. That discussion is likely to continue into 2014 as the Coalition government, which in opposition had said it would consider making changes, awaits the results of a consultation process.   Debate over the $1000 threshold on when the GST should apply on goods bought online from overseas retailers also arose, as Australians continued to embrace internet shopping. Questions have been raised whether lowering the threshold would do anything to influence the behaviour of shoppers.   Australia’s fiscal position changed throughout the year, with promises that the budget would return to surplus giving way to huge deficits. What this year’s budget meant for new and small businesses drew readers’ attention, but with the change in government and the warnings of budget cuts to come, it’s unclear how the small business sector will fare in the coming years.   How we work   Freelancing, outsourcing, job matching and share work spaces all featured prominently throughout the year, reflecting the changing nature of work.   Websites connecting freelancers to jobs around the world became more prominent, especially with the successful sharemarket listing of Australian-based Freelancer.com.   As their popularity rises, the need to stand out from the crowd also becomes more important, making ‘tips’ stories on how to do just that popular.   Sharing workspaces with others away from home or out of a corporate office environment also became popular, with like-minded people coming together to work and share ideas.   Other top stories:   Apple – Apple’s application to IP Australia to trademark “startup” sparked a storm of angry comments on StartupSmart. The application has had an adverse finding against it but the case could return after Apple was allowed to defer acceptance of the report.   Investment funding – Artesian Ventures announced a $100 million fund to invest in other investment funds with the aim of investing in 1000 start-ups.   MailChimp blocked – Numerous businesses use MailChimp to deliver material to the email inboxes of their subscribers. So there was plenty of concern when it emerged the service was having problems delivering to certain domain names. The issue has since been rectified.   Sumo loss – Australian entrepreneur James Miller, who co-founded food franchise Sumo Salad before turning his attention to the re-launch of old Sydney pubs, died of a suspected accidental drug overdose.

Coalition victory: Tony Abbott to be Prime Minister

9:12AM | Sunday, 8 September

The Coalition has won the 2013 Federal Election, meaning opposition leader Tony Abbott will be sworn in as prime minister within the coming days.   It is expected the Liberal and National parties will secure 91 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives, well over the 76 needed for a majority. Labor is forecast to win 51 seats.   In a brief victory speech delivered at 10.20pm EST, Tony Abbott said he pledged himself to the service of the country.   "Today, hundreds of thousands of people would have voted for the Liberal and National parties for the first time in their lives. I give you this assurance: we will not let you down.   "A good government is one that governs for all Australians, including those that did not vote for it.   "In three years’ time the carbon tax will be gone, the boats will be stopped, the budget will be on track for a believable surplus and the roads of the 21st century will finally be well underway.   "And from today I declare that Australia is under new management and that Australia is once more open for business."   In his concession speech, Kevin Rudd said he would not contest the Labor party leadership, leaving an open field after the election.   "Therese and I wish [Tony Abbott], Margie and their family well in coping with the stresses and strains of high office that lie ahead. We know a little bit of what that is like,” Rudd said. “I also wish his government well for the great and difficult challenges that lie ahead."   "I know that Labor hearts are heavy across the nation tonight, and as your prime minister and as your leader of the great Australian Labor Party, I accept responsibility. I gave it my all, but it was not enough for us to win."   "For our party and for our movement, we have known defeat before, but I say this to you: throughout out 122 year history, we have always, always risen from defeat. And we'll do it again.   While postal votes have yet to be counted, early figures from the Australian Electoral Commission showed the Coalition gained 53.5% of the two-party preferred vote, while Labor’s vote declined to 46.5%.   The Coalition has gained clear majorities in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania, while the ACT went 60-40 to the Labor party.   In time zones behind the Eastern states, such as Western Australia and South Australia, too few votes have been counted to give a state-wide two-party figure.   Coalition small business minister Bruce Billson has retained his seat, gaining a 4% swing towards him in Dunkley, giving him 55% of the two-party preferred vote with 71% of the votes counted. He is almost certain to be sworn in as Australia’s new small business minister.   Coalition industry, innovation and science spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella is battling to retain her Victorian seat of Indi against independent Cathy McGowan, who has polled strongly.

Labor pledges to raise asset write-off threshold to $10,000

9:12AM | Monday, 2 September

The business community has won again. Just days before the federal election, Labor has announced it will increase the instant asset write-off threshold to $10,000 if it returns to government, in a last-minute pledge to business.   The announcement caps what has been a lucrative campaign for small businesses, with both sides of politics announcing tax and budget policies which cater to the small end of town.   The pledge also counteracts the Coalition’s announcement it will scrap the increased write-off threshold if it wins government.   Peter Strong, executive director at the Council of Small Business of Australia, told SmartCompany the announcement adds “momentum” to the economy.   “This is another example of what’s happened during the past few weeks with that focus on small business,” he says.   “Given Joe Hockey wants to remove the tax benefits that have been announced over the past couple of years, the policies are coming much closer together with regard to small business.”   At the Labor launch yesterday, Kevin Rudd said the Coalition was in for a fight as it heads to the polls this coming Saturday – maintaining a defiant stance although polls continue to drift in Tony Abbott’s favour.   ''And for those who say the fight is up, I say they haven't seen anything yet,'' he said. ''Because we have something worth fighting for.''   Among other promises announced yesterday were a promise to keep investment projects tied to local suppliers and jobs, while Rudd also said the federal government would make states pledge to raise TAFE funding – or face a takeover by Canberra.   Several other announcements were made regarding skills and apprentices, including lifting the current apprenticeship completion payment to $2000.   The effort may be futile. The latest Australian-Newspoll survey shows support for the government has dropped to 33%. On a two-party preferred basis, the Coalition wins 54% to Labor’s 46%.   But that hasn’t stopped Rudd from trying. This campaign has been mostly focused on small business issues, and the instant asset write-off is a prime example. When the threshold was last increased, small businesses welcomed the move as a boost to confidence.   Tax experts are less convinced this time around.   Deepti Paton, tax counsel at the Tax Institute, told SmartCompany while the figure is welcome, it doesn’t go far enough – the benefit only lasts for less than two years.   The higher threshold will last until July 2015, after which it will return to the $6500 rate.   “It’s a high number and certainly would boost the tax system’s capability to give small businesses an extra bump for additional investments, but you need to bear in mind this only lasts for 22 months.”   “It’s welcome, but we would prefer an affordable long-term change to the tax system with regards to an accelerated deprecation scheme, rather than constant, short-term boosts.”   “We should be building a tax system to last.”   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

NT SMEs sceptical about Labor’s small business tax cut

8:09AM | Friday, 16 August

While Labor has attempted to bump its business credentials on the campaign trail by promising the Northern Territory a business tax cut of 10 percentage points, local employers aren’t so enthusiastic.   Greg Bicknell, chief executive of business group Chamber NT, told SmartCompany this morning the organisation is “slightly cynical” about the plan.   The other states are, too – business groups in Victoria and around the rest of the country have already complained the government is playing favourites.   He says the announcement was just the latest in a long string of political promises.   “We’ve heard talk of plans for the Northern Territory coming since 1937, and we’ve yet to see any long-term strategic thinking and action.   Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the plan yesterday, saying the territory would receive a 10 percentage point cut in the company tax rate within five years. The Northern Territory would also be incorporated as part of a special economic zone – a plan which has also been endorsed by billionaire Gina Rinehart.   ''I believe in the Territory, I love the Territory,'' Rudd said.   However, the tax cut has not yet been costed, and as Bicknell says, there is no current plan for how the cuts will be targeted.   “There’s just not enough detail,” he says.   “Obviously, if it applies to everyone across the board, business would welcome that. But if it’s only for newcomers and putting existing companies at a disadvantage, we wouldn’t welcome it.”   In theory, Bicknell says, the cut is a good idea, and he welcomes the fact both sides of Parliament are paying more attention to the north.   But for now, he says, “we’re slightly sceptical”.   “There is a lot of talk about the Northern Territory…but the delivery of the promises seems to get lost.”   Meanwhile, however, other business groups and politicians have expressed frustration with the announcement.   The Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry said if the announcement is good enough for the Northern Territory, it should be good enough for the rest of the country.   “Making the Northern Territory more attractive due to its company tax rate will be at the expense of Victoria and other states,” chief executive Mark Stone said in a statement.   The WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry has a made a similar statement, with chief executive James Pearson telling the ABC that any plan to boost the attractiveness of northern Australia “has to include Western Australia”.   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: Business groups welcome September 7 election

8:30PM | Sunday, 4 August

Business groups have welcomed Kevin Rudd’s announcement of an election on September 7, saying the certainty that comes with an election outcome will boost consumer and business confidence.   “Business will be looking to the major parties to offer policies and strategies focused on creating a vibrant and sustainable economy for the decades to come,” Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox told Fairfax.   “Business confidence is highly elastic and will not be salved until there is a clear plan for the future and an unequivocal mandate for its execution," Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Mitch Hooke told The Australian.   ATO concerns over Lisa Ho comeback   The Australian Taxation Office has raised concerns Lisa Ho could be attempting to establish a ‘phoenix’ company after a holding company controlled by the fashion designer purchased key intellectual property from Lisa Ho Designs, which recently collapsed with $17 million in debts.   However, administrator Todd Gammel of HLB Mann Judd is denying there is anything untoward in the transaction, according to the minutes of a creditors' meeting filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission said.   “The administrators had gone through the sale process and that the best offer they had received was from the director [Ho] … The business was offered for sale to the general public, the transaction that took place was at arm's length and the business was not continuing to trade,” the minutes said.   Chinese turf war spooks investors   A turf war has broken out between the People's Bank of China (PBOC) and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) over the future of China’s foreign investment and trade rules, with analysts warning the news risks spooking international investment.   "The PBOC is taking a more open approach (to reform), whereas SAFE sees itself as a gatekeeper," a lead representative of a foreign business association in China told Reuters.   “There's a perception, particularly outside of China, that policy is unfolding according to some great plan," said Mark Williams, chief China economist at Capital Economics in London.   "Clearly that's never actually been the case, but evidence of conflict within the government will certainly dent confidence.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.19% to 15658.36. The Aussie dollar is up to US89.12 cents.

Rapping Peter Strong: Keepin’ it real against red tape

7:18AM | Wednesday, 31 July

Since Old Taskmaster was knee-high to a grasshopper, the clowns in Canberra have been stifling small business owners with red tape and regulation.   While many business regulations are created with multinationals like BHP Billiton and Wesfarmers in mind, the same compliance hoops and taxes are also forced onto sole traders, small businesses and start-ups with far fewer resources.   Unfortunately, despite the fact small businesses are the backbone of the Australian economy, the message just doesn’t seem to be getting through. Until now, that is.   Thanks to Council of Small Business of Australia executive director Peter Strong – with a little help from YouTube – that message is now going viral. In fact, earlier this morning, the clip was doing the rounds here at Taskmaster Towers.   Strong recorded a rap music video on behalf of small business owners and entrepreneurs across the nation, telling Kevin Rudd to start keeping it real on red tape. It’s a battle rap against bureaucracy.   While it probably won’t force the likes of Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre or Kanye West to update their CVs just yet, the clip turned out better than you might imagine.   If it hasn’t shown up in your email or on your Twitter feed yet, here’s the video everyone’s talking about:     Now, you might think it’s a little silly. But it’s novelty value that causes videos to go viral on social media sites, including YouTube.   So Old Taskmaster says it’s time to take a leaf out of Peter Strong’s book. If you use YouTube as one of your social media channels, don’t just upload a boring old ad. Instead, create a video with some novelty value to it and have some fun with it!   Get it done – and bust a funky lyric!

Entrepreneurs call on Carr to “make things” happen as new innovation minister

7:56AM | Monday, 1 July

Senator Kim Carr has been returned to his old industry and innovation portfolios in Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s cabinet reshuffle, as entrepreneurs ask for firm commitments from the government to the start-up sector.   In a statement following his swearing in as Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research and Education, Carr connected a country’s ability to “make things” with jobs, opportunity and investment in education and infrastructure.   He says a country that makes things “thrives on the ingenuity and ambition of its people. It is a nation that dreams large and commits itself to making those dreams a reality”.   Less talk, more real promises needed   Jeremy Liddle, chief executive at the Enterprise Network for Young Australians (ENYA), told StartupSmart the time has come for real promises.   “With the appointment of the new prime minister, he has been talking about youth, and business will be a focus of his, but whether or not he can achieve anything between now and the election remains to be seen,” Liddle says.   “All of the support has been verbal and not financial from the government so far. I’d have to say this is a bit of a pattern, unfortunately.   “We need a shift from verbal support to real policy promises for the election,” Liddle says, citing the Israeli government’s five-to-one matching of investment for start-ups who graduate from approved incubators as an outstanding policy initiative.   “Something like that would have an extremely leveraged effect on the Australian economy and the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Liddle says.   “We haven’t seen any financial support for incubators or accelerators and co-working spaces and support organisations like ENYA.”   Liddle added that he was very happy to see Bernie Ripoll returned to the parliamentary secretary for small business role, given his understanding of enabling entrepreneurialism.   Education and innovation a powerful pairing   Liddle has been assisting the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority review for the high school curriculum on business and economics and says the pairing of innovation and education could be a powerful policy alignment.   “We could definitely be doing a lot more at the high school curriculum level and the tertiary level to encourage young people to start their own companies,” Liddle says.   Entrepreneurship as the key to real job creation   He says innovation is now a critical area for the government to get right and start investing in if it’s committed to job creation.   “The only way you can create sustainable job growth is by fostering new companies, by supporting start-ups. Start-ups and young companies and commercialising innovation is critical for the economy. It’s not just mildly important; it should be the primary focus.   “Throughout the OECD countries, the only net growth in jobs has come from companies younger than five years old. Throughout the GFC, younger companies five years old contributed double-digit job growth.”   Liddle says Carr can support both the high-profile mining and car manufacturing industries in the industry portfolio and emerging companies by focusing on funding technological innovation that transcends industries.   “The focus should be on technology that can be applied to both older and new industries. We need to ask ourselves, what is the new wave of technology that will transcend industry?” he says.   In his statement, Carr welcomed the pairing of the education and innovation portfolios.   “Our students are our future researchers, entrepreneurs and workers in industry. They are central to the innovation agenda,” he says.   “Innovating better than we do now is the highest priority and most practical step we can take as a country to improve living standards, create jobs, and secure our future prosperity. For Labor, this is not a choice, it is an imperative.”

Start-up community leaders say change in PM creates opportunity

6:42PM | Thursday, 27 June

Leaders from the Australian start-up community say while there will be little immediate impact from Kevin Rudd ousting Julia Gillard as Prime Minister, the new environment and leadership team has created a better opportunity for working with the government.   Mick Liubinskas, co-founder of leading start-up incubator Pollenizer told StartupSmart the spill has generated a more risk-friendly leadership team, ripe for conversation and “aggressive action on innovation”.   “The way the Labor Party is right now, they’ll be looking at ways to grow innovation. We’re looking at a new team with short space of time before an election, who may be more likely to take risks,” Liubinskas says.   “Being an election year, we have the opportunity to get the ear of in power to see if they can put an election promise in.”   Liubinskas says there have been ups and downs with Gillard and Senator Stephen Conroy, who had been the driver of the national broadband network but who has resigned as the minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy.   “Conroy with the internet filter and Prime Minister Gillard with the 457-visas, those things have been looked on negatively by the technology industry,” he says.   Liubinskas says the start-up community has big plans for working with government to build a strong entrepreneurial culture in Australia.   “We have long term plans and we hope to do that with the government. But innovation can’t afford to be party-based because it’s too important,” says Liubinskas.   “Australia has a big opportunity, but also a responsibility, to look at what will be the next industry after mining, and innovation should be the prime option,” says Liubinskas, who points out entrepreneurialism and innovation is a high value add, exportable option that’s good for the economy, education and health.   Sebastian Eckersley-Maslin, the chief executive at investment group and tech start-up accelerator Blue Chilli, says the spill will have limited impact as two key policy changes the start-up community needed have both been already introduced.   “I’m still digesting it myself,” Eckersley-Maslin told StartupSmart. “The biggest change we wanted has already been announced.”   Eckersley-Maslin says this was the review of employee share schemes.   He added the community is also keen to see progress on the idea of lowering the minimum required amount for government matching of early stage venture capital firms from $10 million to $5 million.   Eckersley-Maslin adds he hopes the removal of Australia’s first female prime minister won’t have a negative impact on encouraging women to step into leadership roles and take risks.   “A lot of the backlash she was facing was as a woman, from puppeteering by the media. Australia voted her in, and her party voted her out,” Eckersley-Maslin says.   Blue Chilli has a 50-50 gender split across the company, and 42% of its founders are female.   “That’s pretty rare in the IT tech investment space,” says Eckersley-Maslin. “We’ve still got the Governor-General and a female lord mayor of Sydney, so there are still women leaders out there, but I am looking forward to when we have another female prime minister.”

THE NEWS WRAP: Kevin Rudd appeals to business after winning leadership spill

6:51PM | Wednesday, 26 June

Kevin Rudd has reclaimed the prime ministership after winning a leadership spill of the Australian Labor Party last night, defeating incumbent Julia Gillard 57-45, with Anthony Albanese replacing Wayne Swan as the deputy leader.   In his speech following the ballot, Rudd emphasised the business community and young Australians will be key priorities for his government.   "Let me say this to Australian business: I want to work closely with you. I’ve worked with you closely in the past, particularly during the GFC and there were some white knuckle moments there, as some of the heads of the major banks will remember," Rudd said.   "But we came through because we worked together and I’m saying it loud and clear to businesses large and small across the country, that in partnership we can do great things for the country’s future."   Julia Gillard announced she would not recontest her seat at the next election, also saying that while “[gender] doesn't explain everything, it doesn't explain nothing; it explains some things” in terms of the challenges she faced as leader.   Carriers demand more backhaul access   Competition watchdog the ACCC will begin an enquiry into Telstra’s charges to other carriers for use of its backhaul networks, following complaints from a group of carriers including iiNet, Vodafone and Macquarie Telecom.   Backhaul fibre optic networks are used to send calls and data to and from mobile phone base stations and exchanges, with Telstra owning the only cables to some parts of the country.   "We need the NBN to change some of its priorities to be able to help us bring competition to Australians," says Vodafone Australia chief executive Bill Morrow.   “This is a huge impediment, and you're now going to get customers faster and faster internet access and taxing them if they use it. It ends up being a disproportionate tax as well because for companies like iiNet and Internode, our customers have much higher usage than Telstra customers or Optus customers,” says iiNet chief executive Michael Malone.   ATO warning on profit shifting   Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan has issued a warning to Australian companies hoping to emulate the tax minimisation strategies of tech giants such as Google and Apple, telling the federal government it needs to do more to stamp out the practice.   "They can see what is happening as a result of these international companies taking profit out of the country. They are thinking: 'What functions can we move offshore, what functions can we disconnect and have third-party providers fulfil to put the profit in a low-tax jurisdiction and receive an exempt dividend coming back into the system?'" Jordan says.   “That might be their assertion, but we are going to test every single aspect of those structures. We will want to know whether what purports to happen actually happens on the ground… It is one thing to put in place a fancy structure, but it is another to have it tested five years later, because by their nature these schemes are quite, sort of, artificial.   “We will be taking a leadership role internationally in addressing the problem, but we need to also look at how changes can be made here. The corporate tax base is under threat. What's happening is unacceptable to the community, the government, and to regulators.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 1.02% to 14910.14. The Aussie dollar is up to US92.81 cents.

Gillard v Rudd: ALP leadership ballot

6:31AM | Wednesday, 26 June

It’s prime ministerial party time, with Julia Gillard declaring a ballot for the Labor leadership will be held at 7pm this evening. Check Crikey’s liveblog for the latest developments. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just announced that a leadership ballot for the Labor Party will be held at 7pm this evening. In an interview with David Speers on Sky News, Gillard said that she hopes to win the ballot and will leave the Parliament if she does not win.“Tonight is the moment for caucus to decide. I accept that so fundamentally that if I am not successful I will resign at the next election. I ask the same of any challenger,” said Gillard.Kevin Rudd is yet to announce whether he will challenge for the leadership. Rumours have been circulating all afternoon that a petition has been going around Parliament House with MPs calling on Gillard to allow a leadership ballot. Gillard says she has not seen the petition.“I’ve been wryly joking with some of my colleagues this petition is the political equivalent of the Loch Ness monster… I’ve got an obligation to the nation, we are talking about who leads the nation, I am not going to let that speculation run endlessly.”“This is the moment for Caucus to decide. I accept that outcome,” said Gillard.“I’ll let my caucus colleagues decide. What has always driven me in politics and will continue to drive me … is getting things done in the accordance of Labor values for a Labor purpose,” said the Prime Minister.“I accept responsibility for my own conduct but people need to accept responsibility for their conduct… what I can tell you as Prime Minister and Labor leader is I have never been diverted from that task.

Northern exposure: Tony Abbott’s top-end plans could create new small business opportunities

6:22AM | Friday, 21 June

Growing up, your humble correspondent was taught to support the mighty Hawks in what was then the VFL (now the AFL), the Glenelg Tigers in the SANFL and the Penrith Panthers in the NSWRL (now the NRL).   So it is with some trepidation and reluctance that Old Taskmaster, after reading a story in this morning’s paper, types the following phrase:   Go north!   Don’t worry, dear readers. There has been no traitorous shifting of allegiances. No betrayal of loyalties to hop on the bandwagon of the Roos, the Roosters or the (former) Bears. No acts of high treason have been committed.   However, there is potentially a business opportunity you should consider.   At this point, it is almost redundant to point out that the federal government is in a lot of trouble politically. Since announcing the Carbon Tax very early in this term, the opinion polls have quite consistently placed Labor behind in two-party preferred terms.   Polls may come and go, according to the manual, but if they all consistently show one thing, it’s time to pay attention.   Barring either one of the most miraculous political comebacks in Australian political history, Julia Gillard and the factions peacefully standing aside to Kevin Rudd or a series of major scandals hitting the Liberals, the outcome of the September election seems nearly certain. Tony Abbott will be Australia’s Prime Minister in September.   A change in government and a new era of tougher federal budgets in Canberra will likely mean the end of some business opportunities, especially those depending on handouts from Labor programs. But new possibilities will also emerge.   As Tony Abbott revealed today, one of the major projects of an incoming Coalition government will be the development of northern Australia. Over the next 15 years, Abbott promises northern Australia will go from being our last frontier to our next one.   Here’s where things get interesting: The Coalition is examining a range of policy options, including business tax cuts and major infrastructure projects, in order to encourage development near the cities of Darwin, Cairns, Townsville and Karratha.   Key government departments, including the CSIRO and Quarantine, will also potentially be relocated under the plan.   (If any Coalition MPs read this blog, it might also be worth considering start-up incubators or funding for new enterprises up north, but that’s an aside.)   What all this means, depending on your industry, is some lucrative new business opportunities might be opening up in the top end over the coming years. If you are considering establishing or relocating your business, there could potentially be government incentives opening up if you base it in one of our northern cities.   Don’t get me wrong. As long-time readers will know, Old Taskmaster certainly doesn’t advise you at this point to up-root your family and relocate up north on the hope a politician will be honest.   However, it is worthwhile taking a close look at the potential business opportunities that will open up if Abbott is serious about his plan. It’s also worth taking a look at precisely what incentives Abbott’s plan has for establishing a start-up in northern Australia.   Get it done – and go north!

The art of objection handling: Objectively offering an object after a customer originally objects

5:32PM | Monday, 6 May

Do you know how, any time you call a call centre, they play a pre-recorded message informing you your call might be monitored for training and coaching purposes?   Well, your humble correspondent has recently been stuck in Taskmaster Towers listening back over some of those blasted inbound sales calls.   Then again, while it might be a nuisance to handle calls internally (or more the point, to have to listen back to them), you tend to get better sales outcomes and customer service than if you outsource in Old Taskmaster’s opinion. But I digress.   During one of these sales calls, a younger member of our sales team receives a query from a small business owner about our widgets.   The sales rep asks the prospective customer a number of open-ended discovery questions about their business and then suggests a particular model of widget that best suits their needs. They explain a key feature of the widget and how that feature will benefit the customer's business.   However, when they try to close the sale, the potential customer has a sudden change of heart. “Sounds good but – erm – I’m not too sure… Uhh… yeah, can I think about it and get back to you?” says the prospective customer. They chicken out of going that final step, like Kevin Rudd in a leadership showdown.   The sales rep is cheerful, positive and polite in dealing with the situation. “That’s okay, when you’re ready to order a widget, just give us a call…” says the sales rep.   Old Taskmaster’s blood pressure shoots up dramatically at this point – and yours should too if you hear something similar. Seriously, you’re not going to just accept a customer backing down from a sale at face value, are you?! Face value is something you should not accept from Phil Collins, let alone from your customers!   What this sales rep failed to do was any kind of objection handling.   Objection handling is where, instead of just accepting the customer isn’t going to purchase a product they enquired about, you ask them why they decided not to purchase it.   What the customer will give you in response is a reason why they are doubtful about agreeing to the purchase. Perhaps they’ll say “it’s too expensive” or “what we’re really looking for is a product with features x, y and z”.   This is where you ask some more discovery questions. In some cases, what the prospective customer really needs is reassurance that they’re making the right decision by purchasing the product from you.   If that’s the case, you might talk the customer through some of the ways the product will bring them value – the extended warranty you offer or how this particular product is cost-competitive for the features they’re after – before again asking for the sale.   Alternatively, it could be you didn’t ask the right discovery questions at the start and missed some vital information about what the right product for the customer is. Perhaps you have a different product that better suits their needs?   Of course, if the customer continues to object, you might ultimately propose that you post out some leaflets and give them a call back later in the week. It’s essential to follow up on promise – but that’s a rant for another day.   So make sure you – and your sales reps – do some objection handling first. Don’t take sales rejection at face value.   Get it done – on every sales call!

THE NEWS WRAP: New small business minister to be announced in cabinet reshuffle

3:07PM | Sunday, 24 March

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is set to announce a new small business minister as part of a cabinet reshuffle, following the mass-resignation of ministers aligned with Kevin Rudd.   Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has named Jason Clare, Sharon Bird, Mike Kelly, Andrew Leigh and Gai Brodtmann as potential beneficiaries of the reshuffle.   Aside from the small business portfolio, other key ministries to be filled include resources, tourism, tertiary education, science and research, local government and the arts.   Cyprus set to re-introduce one-off bank deposit tax   The government of Cyprus is set to reintroduce plans for a one-off levy on bank deposits, with the government needing to raise $7.74 billion in order to obtain a $13 billion bailout package from European banking authorities.   While the tax would not affect people with deposits less than $125,000, all deposits above that amount at the Bank of Cyprus will be taxed at 20% under the revised plan.   The original proposal, which was voted down amidst large protests, would have seen all deposits impacted by the one-off tax.   Tougher loans for “at-risk” businesses: Report   Banks are imposing tougher loan conditions on businesses in sectors deemed to be at risk, according to a new survey of more than 30,000 businesses published by Macquarie and research company East and Partners.   Around 10% of business in the mining sector surveyed for the report have seen their loans re-priced, compared to a national average of 6%.   Businesses in the “at risk” retail, manufacturing and media sectors are also burdened with tougher loan conditions, according to the survey.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.63% at 14,512.26. The Aussie dollar is steady at US104.38 cents.

Live blog: Labor spill - Crean brings on leadership challenge, ballot at 4:30

3:05AM | Thursday, 21 March

Labor is in turmoil today after senior frontbencher Simon Crean called for a leadership spill, and announced he’d run for deputy. Refresh for rolling updates …   4.46pm: Julia Gillard remains PM. No one challenged her. ALP spokesman Chris Hayes MP has emerged from the caucus meeting to formally announce that there was only one nomination each for the role of prime minister and deputy prime minister; Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan respectively, “Both were duly elected unopposed and unanimously by the parliamentary caucus,” Hayes said. ”It puts beyond doubt the issue of leadership in the parliamentary Labor party.”   4.21pm: Kevin Rudd has just faced the media to announce he will not stand in the leadership ballot. Flanked by supportive colleagues in the corridor of Parliament House, Rudd said he had previously pledged he would only stand if the overwhelming majority of the party requested his return and the top position was vacant, circumstances, he said, which had not been met.   Rudd said he would adhere absolutely to his commitment; “I take my word seriously”. He called on the party to unite to ensure Tony Abbott did not walk into the Lodge.   4.16pm: Labor MPs are expected to start filing into the leadership spill any minute. Meanwhile, spare a thought for the people affected by the forced adoption of children in the 20th century. They received a heartfelt and long-awaited apology from Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott this morning, but that’s been eclipsed by the #spill.   3.40pm: We still don’t even know if Rudd will nominate for leader at the spill at 4.30pm. This update from ABC reporter Latika Bourke: SkyNews reckons the following Labor MPs have been spied in Rudd’s office: Ed Husic, Tony Zappia, Richard Marles, Stephen Jones. Confusion reigns in Parliament House. Normally MPs would be getting ready to head to the airport and leave Canberra as the sitting week wraps up. Not this time. They’re frantically phoning around and changing their flights.   3.25pm: Sportsbet has Rudd the frontrunner at $1.30 with Gillard at $3.00. But she’s fighting back — she was at $6.00 half an hour ago. And she just now dropped to $2.80.   And she’s got this vote sewn up — outspoken Labor MP Steve Gibbons tweets this (Gillard’s winning the race on Twitter FYI): 3.11: Treasurer Wayne Swan weighs in. He is highly likely to go down with Gillard should she lose today's ballot.   2.56pm: Bernard Keane writes: Question Time has come and gone, with an attempt by the opposition to suspend standing orders to move a motion of no confidence failing. The motion was supported by independents Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Andrew Wilkie but failed to achieve the necessary absolute majority of the House.   A motion of no confidence — Tony Abbott’s first — may not have been particularly interesting given Gillard remains Prime Minister and thus her agreements with Oakeshott and Windsor remain in place. Wilkie has indicated he will only vote no confidence in the case of a major scandal. The Prime Minister’s speech in response to Tony Abbott’s motion to suspend remarks contain little of her usual back-against-the-wall fire, but relied on outlining her achievements and warning that she had more left to do.   Meantime the counting game is on in earnest, with attention focusing on how many numbers Simon Crean can bring over to the Rudd camp, estimated to be no more than 35-40 MPs. The problem for Gillard is that a victory will do nothing to address Simon Crean’s defection or the persistence of a core of Rudd supporters of around a third of the caucus.   2.42pm: Julia Gillard has shut down question time after Abbott’s move to have a no-confidence motion in her failed.   2.25pm: Tony Abbott, in question time, tells Gillard: “I say to the current Prime Minister, for your party’s good you should go. For your country’s good, you should go.” Gillard is now firing back at Abbott. Note that Kevin Rudd is in the chamber, as is Simon Crean; but Crean has gone to the backbench after precipitating today’s dramatic events.   Remember the last time this happened, when Rudd and Gillard faced off in February 2012? Key Rudd supporters were Anthony Albanese, Martin Ferguson, Chris Bowen and Kim Carr. Penny Wong, Tanya Plibersek, Wayne Swan, Stephen Conroy and Simon Crean all backed Gillard. Crean has now shifted — and who else?   2.17pm: We’re in question time. Tony Abbott has moved a no-confidence motion in the PM, and is listing what he says is a litany of Labor failures. Meanwhile, Labor MPs have started to tweet how they’ll vote. Here’s ACT Senator Kate Lundy: 2.04pm: News Limited journalist Phillip Hudson tweets: 2.01pm: Prime Minister Julia Gillard tells question time there will be a ballot for the leadership at 4.30pm today.   1.45pm: Labor frontbencher and former leader Simon Crean has pulled the trigger on the Labor leadership crisis, calling for Prime Minister Julia Gillard to spill all leadership positions and backing Kevin Rudd with himself as deputy leader.   Crean’s intervention comes as the climax for an extended leadership dilemma for Labor, with Rudd’s camp unable to muster the numbers to defeat Gillard despite a dreadful start to the year in the polls.   However, there are important process issues to be addressed. Crean has indicated he doesn’t expect the Prime Minister to accept his plea to spill leadership positions, in which case it will be up to her opponents to muster the 35 votes to successfully call a spill in caucus via the caucus chairman before MPs leave tonight (prospects of Parliament sitting tomorrow have evaporated with the withdrawal of the media reform bills).   Crean, who has been a strong supporter of the Prime Minister, said he wanted a circuitbreaker for the continuing destabilisation and that Labor’s problems would not be solved by simply swapping leaders. Labor needed to demonstrate it believed in something, he said.   The move by the former leader (and persistent critic of Rudd) breaks the impasse Labor found itself in with the Rudd camp unable to muster anywhere near sufficient numbers to defeat Gillard and Rudd himself repeatedly, in private and in public, saying he would not challenge under any circumstances.   With a leadership spill initiated by Crean, Rudd now has the chance to stand; indeed, there is no way Rudd can avoid standing.   Crean also portrayed himself as a deputy capable of ensuring Rudd, whose wretched management style was one of the key reasons for his downfall in June 2010, would be a more inclusive leader if he takes over again as prime minister.   That has been a persistent problem for Rudd backers, with the memory of Rudd’s behaviour as leader still strong in many backbench minds, as well as being a reason why a number of cabinet ministers indicated either publicly or privately they could not work with him again.   Crean also ruled out seeking the treasurership, which has long been rumoured to be promised to the New South Wales Right’s Chris Bowen, who backed Rudd last February and is his highest-profile ministerial backer.   There are disputed media reports that the NSW Right will back Rudd, which combined with Crean’s support would make Rudd very difficult to stop in a leadership contest. Crean has said he wishes to retain his ministerial position pending the outcome of the current contest.   This story originally appeared on Crikey.com.au.

THE NEWS WRAP: Gillard opens door to compromise as media reforms falter

3:28PM | Monday, 18 March

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is fighting to keep proposed media reforms alive, following an interview on the ABC’s Lateline program where independent Tony Windsor expressed concerns about the package.   "I don't think the numbers are there for a great portion of this to get through," Windsor said.   Meanwhile, Fairfax media reports that the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, and Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr have shifted their support away from Prime Minister Julia Gillard towards leadership rival Kevin Rudd.   Cyprus crisis shakes Australian markets   The government of Cyprus has postponed a vote on a controversial tax on savings, which forms part of its austerity package, leading to more than 2% being wiped off the value of Australian shares.   The vote would have ratified a deal struck between Cyprus, the IMF, the European Central Bank and other lenders to levy a once-off tax on all bank deposits of 6.75% for amounts up to €100,000 ($A124,000) and 9.9% for deposits above €100,000 as part of a bailout package.   ASIC report says high speed trading risk is overstated   The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has released its report into computerised high speed trading.   While the report from the corporate regulator recommends some reforms, it also finds that the impact of the practice in Australia has largely been overstated.   “There is a belief by some that high-frequency trading is manipulative in a legal sense, or at least predatory in nature, and there is a perception that high-frequency traders uniformly have less regard for market integrity. That perception is not supported by our study,” the report states.   Overnight   In New York, the S&P500 is down 0.64% to 1550.65. The Aussie dollar is up to US1.0391 cents.

Publicise your blogs on Twitter

3:51AM | Wednesday, 13 March

Here you are, dear Taskmaster reader. For ages, you’ve made excuses about how difficult or expensive it is to set up a blog, whinging and crying like Kevin Rudd after a Labor Party leadership spill.

Cashing in on the apocalypse: Five earth shattering marketing tactics

3:23AM | Monday, 11 March

For many people, the Mayan end-of-the-world prophecy is simply a hyped-up event that will come and pass without notice, just like every other prediction of its kind.

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