Engineers Australia comments on the 2021–22 Federal Budget

Engineers Australia CEO Dr Bronwyn Evans has made the following comments in relation to the 2021-22 Budget.
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12 May 2021

Engineers Australia CEO Dr Bronwyn Evans has made the following comments in relation to the 2021-22 Budget.

Education, training and skills supply

“Engineers Australia applauds the government’s commitment to encouraging gender equity in STEM education and careers. This important funding can be improved by future governments with investment in upskilling teachers in key STEM areas.”

“While Engineers Australia supports the focus on skills programs, we would have liked to have seen some spending on harnessing the existing skills of onshore migrant engineers who are underutilised by industry. With borders closed a focus on supporting those who struggle to enter the local workforce would have enabled greater efficiency in workforce utilisation.”

“The next phase of the Australian Government’s economic recovery plan should include up-skilling and re-skilling of the workforce in industries such as energy, and the transition to advanced manufacturing.  Engineers play a critical role in our everyday lives and programs that develop skills in new and evolving technologies will help them build and manage the complex systems that keep the nation moving.”

Climate change and the environment

“Technology has never been better placed to provide affordable energy that is decoupled from environmental damage. The challenge is to manage the integration of renewables to come on-line at scale as needed. Government should take an active role in shaping outcomes through smart policy settings outlined in a comprehensive energy transition plan.”

“Notably missing from the budget announcements is a focus on the power system. As the power network evolves with the growth in renewables and customer owned generation, the system must be planned, analysed, designed, and operated as an engineering system. The source and consumption of energy is changing rapidly.

“The Energy Security Board has called for a nationally coordinated approach to address “concerning and urgent” threats to the reliability of the energy grid. Complex systems require both market forces and technical management that functions independently of the network operator and market influence. The market forces are very apparent in the current structure, but the independent technical voice is lacking.

“Economic levers cannot achieve engineering outcomes. Engineering skills must be at the heart of decisions for systems that rely on engineering to succeed.”

Technology and industry

“While it is encouraging that the government is viewing manufacturing as a priority area, the weakness is that it is still mainly couched in terms of sovereignty rather than as a commercial opportunity.”

“Engineers Australia welcomes the new patent box regime, however limiting the program to medical and biotechnology spheres indicates a disconnect between government’s understanding of just how broadly innovation and manufacturing can apply. There were no mentions of advanced manufacturing or Industry 4.0, which is a missed opportunity, especially when the latter has been a significant government initiative.

“While there is a strong focus on the financial sector, financial services, defence and biomedical sector, there is comparatively little attention paid to other STEM-based industries despite acknowledgement from government that the “jobs of the future” are all STEM related.”

Infrastructure

“After the previous Budget’s focus on infrastructure, this Budget demonstrates a more careful and conservative approach to infrastructure spending. $15.2 billion over ten years (on top of the current commitment of $110 billion for projects under construction), amounts to $520 million per year. With existing stock already in deficit to population growth and resilience requirements, as well as a need for maintenance, upgrades and new infrastructure, this may not be enough. “

“With most investment in roads, it’s a missed opportunity to look at solving strategic infrastructure challenges. This is perhaps partly due to road projects being effective at injecting quick labour-intensive employment, but this is at the expense of a big-picture vision.”

Media enquiries
Lisa McKoy, National Media Manager
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View Engineers Australia's analysis and review of the Federal Budget