Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the “Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda” on 14 October 2014.

Establishing Industry Growth Centres

The Government has announced it will provide $188.5 million to fund Industry Growth Centres which aims to drive growth and jobs in five key sectors:

  • food and agribusiness
  • mining equipment, technology and service
  • oil, gas and energy resources
  • medical technologies and pharmaceuticals
  • advanced manufacturing sectors

Employee Share Scheme Changes

The Government has announced the tax treatment of employee share schemes is to be changed to encourage entrepreneurship and start-up companies.  Businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million will be able to provide employee share options at a small discount that will not be subject to up-front tax, as long as the employee holds the shares or options for at least three years.  Only companies that are unlisted and incorporated for less than 10 years will be able to apply, and their employees will be able to defer their tax bills from seven years to 10 years. The government will also reverse the 2009 changes by Labor to employee share schemes which impose immediate tax liability on employees with share options and triggered many schemes to shut down almost overnight.

Reforming the vocational education and training sector

The Government has announced that from 1 July 2015 it will invest $200 million each year to establish the new Australian Apprenticeship Support Network to lift apprenticeship completion rates and provide employers with the skilled and productive employees they need to grow their business.

The Government will also trial two innovative training programmes by:

  • Investing $38 million to provide 7,500 scholarships in specific regional areas where youth unemployment is high, through the Training for Employment Scholarships
  • Providing a new Youth Employment Pathway to support community programmes for 3000 disengaged 15-18 year olds in regional areas.

Overhaul of 457 visa program

The Government also announced that the controversial 457 visa program will be overhauled to make it easier for employers to hire skilled overseas workers “while maintaining strong safeguards against abuse”.  It will continue to be a requirement that a foreign worker receives the same market rates and conditions that are paid to an Australian doing the same job in the same workplace.

Introduction of $15 million Premium Investor Visa

The Australian government is expanding the significant investor visa program to encourage more high net worth individuals to move to Australia. It will introduce a premium investor visa offering a speedier approval for permanent residency if the investor invests $15 million or more, from 1 July 2015.

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how the government’s Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda will impact you