Here's what 48 Australian executives want to see from policy makers going into the federal election

On July 2 Australians will head to the polling booths to determine the 45th parliament of Australia.

On the table this election is the NBN, company tax, skills migration, innovation and other such policies that could play a significant role in the future of Australian business.

Business Insider reached out to successful Australian executives to find out what they want from policy makers heading into the federal election.

From a focus on STEM, to an inspirational leader, cybersecurity, innovation and talent acquisition, here’s what’s on the wishlists of some of the country’s finest business leaders.

Kate Adams, founder and CEO of Thankly

If we really want an ideas and innovation boom in Australia, we need more women at the top tiers of science and technology as well as on our boards. Diversity underlies innovation and currently we still have a situation where our girls have fewer options than our boys on boards and at senior levels in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics industries (STEM).

Women entrepreneurs often start with less capital and have a harder time accessing capital – it’s still very much a boys’ club. Women founders are often set up to fail – or at very least, unable to scale and it means a huge proportion of our great thinkers, are subtly and pervasively pushed out.

One of the biggest fallacies is that it’s just a ‘career pipeline’ issue. It isn’t – the problem is a lot more complex. And I believe we need policy makers to take a more ‘hands on’ role when it comes to enforcing strategies for change.

I would like to see a commitment that extends current policy around supporting investors and startups to supporting girls and women in the same space, with a greater focus on education, resources and funding.

Tim Reed, CEO of MYOB

Small business is often the forgotten voice in policy debates, so it is great to see in recent years there has been a real focus on supporting small businesses with some proactive tax policy (instant asset write off and reduction in company taxes) and a focus on making regulation better for start-ups with the government's Innovation Statement last year.

What’s next? First, a number of these important initiatives still need to be passed in the parliament. Following on from there, it is critical that the government continue to look for ways to lower the cost of compliance for small businesses. Simplifying the BAS, which was announced in the budget this year, is a great place to start, but simplifying reporting of payroll information, and moving to a nationwide e-invoicing standard would both be big steps forward. Standardisation of payroll tax across the nation, and including it as part of the BAS would also be a welcome move.

Andre Eikmeier, co-founder and joint CEO of Vinomofo

I care less about the economic policies promised, to be honest. Not that they're not important, but I think as a nation, like a business, your people have to believe in your vision as a leader, and be proud of what they're a part of. Plus our parties have a tendency to flip, so sure, a few people either way will have it a little better or worse off, but we have a far more pressing problem as a nation: We've lost pride and faith in our nation and our leaders.

I want a leader who gives us something to believe in again. Something to feel proud of.

I want to see us pull our heads out of the sand and get back in line with the more progressive nations of the world in terms of commitment to renewable energies, and basic humanity.

Until we get this stuff right, and stop this ridiculous conservative, bigoted stance on eg: gay marriage, detention centres, coal power - then we're not going to stimulate national pride by giving lucky people like me tax breaks.

That's pretty much where I stand, heading in to an uninspiring election.

Deeps De Silva, head of marketing Asia-Pacific and Japan at Dropbox

Gender equality in the workplace is an issue that needs to be addressed by the government. I would like to see policy makers engage with industry and gender equality advocates in open forums, and commit to creating real change around workplace diversity. Implementing equal pay for men and women is an imperative first step, however we also need to see parties come together to work on initiatives that create supportive environments for women, as well as look to remove unconscious bias from workplaces. Women make up more than half of the population, however they are underrepresented across many sectors, including the tech sector.

We need to invest in education and programs which empower women and girls to pursue STEM careers as well as teach respect for women from a young age. Recent initiatives around investing in programs to encourage women and girls to learn how to code, or continue with STEM-based higher education is fantastic, however I would like to see the elected government continue and build on these actions. We need to look to world leaders such as Canada as examples and build on our efforts to create equal opportunity for men and women to pursue successful careers.

Tim Bentley, country manager at Proofpoint

Being a leading worldwide cybersecurity company operating in Australia, we fully support and welcome the Liberal government's Cyber Security Strategy announced in April.

Investing in cyber security is an imperative innovative given the massive economic cost to Australians. We also need the Labor Party thinking about this. We need to ensure we learn from advanced countries like the United States and Israel to learn more about how other nations protect their citizens against cyber attacks.

We are a nation of smart, well-educated and technology-aware citizens with some of the brightest minds in the cybersecurity space. The private sectors in Australia, already take Cyber Security extremely seriously and with the Liberal government's new Cyber Security Strategy, will only strengthen our borders against malicious intent.

Trent Innes, managing director of Xero Australia

Reduce friction between government and small business

Australia continues to have a highly rigorous but complex and often burdensome tax system that requires businesses and their advisers to spend hours to ensure they’re compliant with all the rules. Instead of promising tax cuts, businesses would be better off if the government made compliance easier.

This can be done through lighter regulation or technology that removes paper load and moves government systems online. While some of this is being done by government departments already, a true commitment to modernising government collaboration with small business will surpass a meagre tax cut any day.

Encourage technology investment for small business

A major small business incentive focuses on immediate asset deductions, allowing businesses to purchase coffee machines, cars and other hardware. But, the incentive is only useful if the business has the cash in the first place — for those who don’t have $20,000 spare to spend on hardware, it isn’t so useful.

These sorts of incentives are also focused on an old-fashioned approach to business. Startups and many technology-enabled small businesses are less likely to need a forklift or coffee machine (though a ping pong table may qualify) — instead, much of their capital is spent on the software underpinning their businesses. It’s here where it would be highly beneficial to see policies that recognise the modern nature of businesses, rather than hardware.

Educate small businesses in financial literacy

Education isn’t just about schools. One of the major issues our accounting and bookkeeping partners see on a daily basis is small business owners who don’t have a good grasp of their financial standing. As a result, they can’t make the sound decisions necessary to put their business in the strongest position.

Having an education framework that provides small business owners with the knowledge they need to increase their financial literacy will go a long way to improving business survival rates and increasing their share of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product.

Ben Pfisterer, country manager of Square

Recent tax reforms have provided a positive steps towards enhanced concessions and consideration for small businesses at tax time, yet we’d like to see further reduction towards business tax burdens, which are particularly focused on early stage and small businesses. From lower tax rates, to increased applicable deductions or simplified procedural requirements, there remains a variety of opportunities which should continue to be explored. The first two years for small businesses are the hardest, so anything which can be done to help them during their early stage will increase the chance of long term success, hence will contribute towards further economic growth for Australia.

More importantly than any economic reform, social equality and the removal of discrimination is something that Square is deeply passionate about around the world. Marriage equality for Australians needs faster action by policy makers to ensure we’re building not only a world-class economic environment, yet also ensuring we continue to work towards a society void of discriminatory prejudice.

Russell Francis, chief executive officer of Velpic

Announcements about innovation have been great to date but should only be the tip of the iceberg. I want to see Australia as one of the top two or three tech hotspots globally.

To do this the plan needs to be deeply entrenched into our forward planning, nation building, education systems and ultimately into the culture of our country. Let's turn the lucky country into the clever country.

Troy Douglas, cofounder of Nexba

The introduction of a ‘sugar tax’. Governments around the world have turned to fiscal measures to combat the rising healthcare costs and growing rates of obesity and diabetes. A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would save lives and generate millions for health initiatives. Plus, it would also fast-track and commercially incentivise multinationals to make ‘better for you’ product changes that would improve the availability of healthier options for everyone.

Michael Jankie, CEO of PoweredLocal

So far in this election campaign, I am seeing one side of politics put out a reasonable policy and the other side attacking with vitriolic statements that are not true, or are a fraction of the truth. Often, the responses are one-line slogans that appeal only to the lowest common denominator. Stop treating voters like they’re total idiots. Everyone has to vote, so the majority of the population will have a reasonably learned opinion.

We are on the cusp of being a great nation; our current leader has at least proven to all parties that politicians can talk about Progress, Culture, Innovation and Education. It is the most exciting time to be alive so let’s get both sides talking about what they will do to keep it fresh, innovative and exciting in the coming years, instead of resorting to petty sloganism.

Let’s talk about the next revolution: the Entrepreneurial Revolution. I want to hear leaders from both sides advocating for the startup ecosystem and standing firmly behind the entrepreneurs that will be integral to Australia’s growth after the decline of the mining boom.

Rob Hango-Zada, co-founder of Shippit

Whilst the sitting government has done a lot to support innovation, more could be done to support the rise of startup businesses in Australia. Our political leaders must embrace that technology driven innovation is what will make Australia famous over the next decade. Embracing this means providing greater support for entrepreneurs in the form of business development support, funding beyond government grants, networking opportunities with industry leaders and access to shared services like legal and accounting services to ensure startup founders can focus on setting up and growing their business.

We found it immensely difficult to seek out advice when starting Shippit, if it weren’t for our personal network we would not have been able to start the business with the right knowledge around the different business structures, workplace agreements, funding, and other areas that are critical to the launch and success of businesses.

Bridget Loudon, CEO of Expert360

I would like to see the government do more to attract the world's best tech talent to Australia. And we need to get more smart kids studying tech subjects in school and university. The single biggest thing holding Australian startups back is the availability of excellent talent but we have the power to fix that, through immigration and education reform. The key is to act quickly.

Kevin Baum, chief executive officer of TikForce

One of the best steps the federal government could take is to encourage a percentage of Australia’s superannuation investments be put into innovation companies. This could be in the form of 'local' minimums similar to government purchasing guides. There would need to be regulator changes as well as knowledge transfer so that super funds can understand early-stage risk and appropriate due diligence.

I would also like to see support from government for the marketing of the various innovation businesses we have. We need to provide a mainstream message of how Australian innovation is really going - the good and the bad. But it needs to be more widely understood what is being contributing to current and future wealth in this country.

We have to have an economy that builds on our skills and services where innovation and worldwide digital distribution are appreciated, and businesses and people want to invest their time and money.

George Parthimos, CEO of Connexion Media

The rules around investing at the moment are ridiculous, and they’re considering making it even more difficult for early-stage companies to list on the ASX. In particular, the whole concept of a 'sophisticated investor' as defined in the Corporations Act - that you have to earn more than $250,000 and have more than $2.5 million in tangible assets - and is antiquated and needs to be overhauled.

The government should be making it easier for everyday people to invest in new companies. At the moment Australians are considered shrewd enough to buy a $1 million property at auction, but aren’t allowed to invest a few thousand dollars into a start-up company that’s raising money.

Brandon Gien, CEO of Good Design Australia

Clear, honest and consistent communication around the important issues facing Australia and Australians. I want our political leaders to be able to answer those sometimes prickly questions thrown at them with directness and clarity rather than the rehearsed three line media messages and headline grabs we see all the time.

I’m sick of hearing our politicians dodge important questions rather than answering them directly – the Australian public can see straight through this.

Robert Price, CEO of Mashay

Australia needs a valued dish to bring to the global dinner party. Natural resources are great, but they are finite and the world's appetite is diminishing. We are blessed to have an unfair share of great minds with great ideas. A government that thinks long term, actively nurtures the growth of competitive industries is one I would support.

Also climate change isn’t going anywhere. We continue to spend on our carbon credit card and hide the monthly statements. Can someone open the mail, confront the issue and develop a solution to which we can all contribute.

Heidi Armstrong, head of consumer advocacy at Liberty

Every small business owner understands how hard it is to find funding and keep on top of cash flow. Yet when they go to their traditional lender to ask for help, many are disappointed and turned away. But there are other options out there – small businesses just don’t know about them. When businesses grow – so too does the economy, jobs growth and business confidence – so why shouldn’t small businesses be given more help and guidance about how they can fund their business?

I’d like to see our political leaders help small businesses by making it compulsory for traditional banks to refer small business clients to other fintech players when they aren’t prepared to lend money themselves. No business owner should think the banks are the only option.

James Walker, CEO of DroneShield

As a US company, one of the reasons we are expanding into Australia is because of its desirable R&D grant schemes. We intend to conduct all of our R&D here as a result, and employ more Australians in the process.

From our perspective, the only thing holding us back from further leveraging Australia as a hub for our business is its Capital Gains tax regime. We'd like to see both side of politics act on this during the election and eliminate the capital gains tax paid for investors investing into new companies bringing business and jobs into Australia.

Marcus Ehrlich, managing director of Ninox Robotics

I would like to see prioritisation of long term investment in things that actually drive economic growth – infrastructure, education (particularly STEM) and policies that support research and development, both with direct government investment in basic science as well as tax policy that supports innovative risk taking on new technologies.

Mandeep Sodhi, CEO of Hashching

The timing of the election is great because people will have certainty on the government policies by early July as they would be looking to re-invest their tax return to upgrade their house or some even getting into their first home at low interest rates.

With first home mortgage approvals dropping to an alarming 14.2% in March 2016, the lowest in last 12 years, it’s time the elected government introduces smarter policies with right tax breaks to help first home buyers own their home sooner.

Ben Thompson, CEO of Employment Hero

We need a government and a Prime Minister that paints a clear vision for where the country is heading, and how it is going to transition there from the old economies. This is not just a conversation about transitioning from mining to services; it’s also about how industrial relations will transform from a 9 to 5 business to an online business structure while still protecting employees.

As the freelance revolution inevitably sweeps Australia, it is bound to challenge our traditional approach to employment law and independent contracting. Contrary to the freelancing revolution, Australia is re-regulating its workplace laws to make independent contracting more difficult and introduce statutory penalties for 'sham' contracting.

Australia’s lack of a clear cut definition for independent contractors leaves businesses exposed to prosecution. This will inevitably hamper the ability of Australian businesses to utilise independent workers when compared to other developed economies with clear laws in this area.

As a result, we need leaders who will clearly articulate the vision of the future economy and how we’re going to make the changes necessary to succeed. At the moment, we have some figures sticking their heads in the sand; Labor saying we have to protect penalty rates and keep regulating the market, and you have the Coalition sitting somewhere in the middle.

Coalition is too scared to talk about anything industrial relations-related because it’s too toxic, and every time they do, Labor says 'Work Choices'.

Todd Trevillion, managing director of MobileDen

We need a plan in place to address the lack of available workers with digital skills in Australia. There simply aren’t enough people with high-end IT skills to support Malcolm Turnbull’s plan for an innovation nation. Hiring a developer at the moment is nearly impossible.

Teaching children how to code in school is a great start, but we also need a plan to retrain the millions of adults whose careers are being disrupted by technology. It’s not good enough just to say we’ll bring more people with IT skills in from overseas. We’ll end up with a lost generation of Australian workers if we don’t address this problem urgently.

Mark Lapins, CEO and founder of Quantify Technology

Funding is still a huge issue across the Australian startup landscape, and we would like to see it addressed this election. Particularly if both sides of politics are keen on promoting the much lauded 'Ideas Boom'.

In some ways, Australia has gone backwards on this issue. I’ve founded several startups over the past decade, and many of the grants and benefits that helped me get them off the ground are now gone.

In terms of changes: The government flagged the abolition of capital gains tax for those who invest in new businesses last year. We’d like to see both sides of politics commit to this. We would also like to see politicians further fund and expand R&D grants.

Creel Price, CEO of Investible

After the initial excitement of the government's innovation statement, it was disappointing that the early election resulted in a state of limbo rather than concrete policies enacted. My ask for policy makers on both sides of government is clarity on their intention in relation to the previously announced initiatives that support the start–up ecosystem and encourage angel investment.

Whilst government support is both crucial and needed, broad policy statements without clear definitions and implementation timetables can stall investment and encourage cowboys entering into what is already becoming a crowded industry. Policies encouraging Australian start–ups and support networks to expand their horizon’s beyond domestic markets will be imperative if Australia is to create the jobs of the future and cement out place as a world–leader in entrepreneurial development.

Taryn Williams, co-founder and CEO of The Right.Fit

This election, I would like to see policy makers make a real commitment towards ensuring that Australia is a world leader in the innovation and start-up space. During this election there has been a lot of posturing around commitments to innovation and entrepreneurship from the current government, and policy makers should prioritise translating this into action.

I would support increasing the R&D spend, reducing small business tax, and offering greater tax incentives for angel investors to make investing in start-ups a more financially viable option. These changes are necessary if policy makers are genuine about putting Australia on the list of ecosystems in the world that supports high growth tech businesses and a thriving economy.

Nick Lavidge, founder and CEO of Alley

Small and medium business plays a crucial role in driving economic growth, employment and innovation. In recent times, both federal and state governments have shown a commitment to improving the local climate for startups and small business.

Policy makers need to keep pushing this agenda forward, particularly if we want to avoid a drain of talent to more attractive working conditions abroad. I would also like to see a streamline of business registration, information and advisory services so that startups are better supported and informed in complying with legislation.

Anita Jovanovski, CEO of NSW Family Day Care Association

It is great to see Early Childhood Education and Care at the forefront of policy makers. NSW Family Day Care Association would value a strong commitment to Australian families, with improved policies and programmes put in place to assist families by making Quality Early Childhood Education and Care Services easily accessible and affordable for all families.

We welcome funding and a commitment for an Educator Professional Development Program. With a Educator Professional Development Program in place continual development can continue within the sector enabling quality practice as a whole.

Quality educator services will also help improve continued recognition of the Family Day Care sector being a professional, affordable and flexible option for families.

It would be great to see a new workforce strategy to be delivered and to include continued implementation of the National Quality Framework (NQF).

Mike Pritchett, co-founder and CEO of Shootsta

We would actually like to see a renewed focus on business tax cuts this election.

The Coalition — which has at least bought out a policy — seems to be hinting that the major driver of business growth in Australia will come from trade and investment policies. From a grassroots level, it’s hard to measure the actual impact of this.

Contrast to this, we know a direct tax cut will allow us to invest more in our business and in turn employ more staff.

The Coalition’s proposition is to lower more and more companies onto a tax rate of 27.5 per cent and then drop if for everyone to 25 per cent by 2025. In contract, the OECD average tax rate currently sits at 24.85 per cent and has been trending lower for the past decade. That figure will likely be even lower by the time we hit 2025.

Both sides of politics should just cut to the chase and drop it in line with the OECD average or risk Australia losing business — an innovation — to other nations.

Ken Richards, CEO of Leaf Resources

Innovation is not easy. Up to 90 per cent of start-ups fail and 75 per cent of start-ups backed by venture capital companies -- the experts -- still fail. Given this, it would be difficult for the government to pick winners.

However, one government initiative is a great success and we would like to see it expanded.

The Research and Development tax incentive is a lifeblood for many emerging companies. The system works as it incentivises companies to make their own decision on research plans and spend their own money. The government adjudicates on what qualifies as research and development and at the end of the year up to 45 per cent of the funds spent are returned to the company.

It would be a great boost to this already successful scheme and really help the cash flow of emerging companies if this rebate was more frequently paid. Quarterly would be perfect.

Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia

With Australian aid levels now at an all-time low of just 0.23% of our national GDP, the major political parties must commit to reversing the cuts and set out how they will rebuild Australia's aid program.

Most of our closest neighbours are developing countries, whereas Australia, despite challenging economic times, remains a highly prosperous nation. The small levels of support we are offering our neighbours is indefensible.

Providing well-targeted aid to countries in need is not only the morally right thing to do, it offers real economic, security and social benefits to Australia – stability and peace in our region, new trading markets for Australian businesses and greater collaboration with our nearest neighbours.

Whilst we welcome Labor’s commitment to reverse the most recent cuts of $224 million, and the Greens’ policy to increase Australian aid to 0.7% of GDP over the next decade, there has been virtually no discussion of overseas aid in the election campaign to date. The silence should not continue. We need policy makers to consider the ramifications of cuts in past years and commit now to reinstating budget to Australian aid.

Tyson Hackwood, head of Asia for Braintree

Our first Braintree office was located at Tank Stream Labs, a co-working space in Sydney. We’ve seen first-hand how being a part of the fabric of the start-up scene from get-go is invaluable to fostering great ideas and disruptive thinking.

Since then, we’ve seen similar spaces pop up in Sydney and Melbourne, however innovation doesn’t have physical borders! We would encourage policy which sought to level the playing field to provide greater opportunities for entrepreneurs in towns and cities across the country, particularly regional areas.

Wade Cawood, CEO and co-founder at Pulse Global

While most CEOs may be interested in tax breaks and R&D grants, I’d actually like to see all sides of politics focus more on their environment policies.

I think we can all agree that Australia is a forward thinking nation. So, we should be competing with others of the same ilk, such as Sweden and Denmark. Even Costa Rica is making more of an effort than Australia in working towards a 100 per cent renewable energy target.

It’s also shallow to think environmental policy can be boiled down to just the climate debate. Deforestation is also an issue: land clearing rates in Queensland have tripled between 2009 and 2014. Oceans and seas are being overfished en masse and the pollution of the Great Barrier Reef continues regardless of which party is in power.

The lack discourse on environmental issues this election is dismal, and only shows why more executives need to speak up on these issues.

Richard Kimber, CEO of OFX

I would like to see much less emphasis on rote learning and more on the skills required in modern companies. There needs to be less focus on funding models and more on the quality of the curriculum and relevance of our system.

In my view we need to focus on critical thinking, conceptualisation, and communication skills. The education system needs to recognise it is creating the future generation of leaders and entrepreneurs and equip them with a solid grounding to adapt to an increasing pace of change. The education curriculum needs to be urgently updated and teachers need to be up-skilled to cater to the information age.

We also need to reassess the benchmark that we’re working towards and compare our education system to the best in the world such as Finland’s, which are progressive, efficient and produce incredible results.

Zoe Pointon, CEO of Open Agent

We would like to see less tax and financial burdens for startups, beginning with funding matching for early stage startups to provide a growth boost, eliminating the payroll tax for high growth companies and providing tax breaks for those who are working at early stage/high growth companies to make salaries more competitive.

Getting the right people is always difficult for start-ups; we would like to see better processes with 457 Visa, making it easier to source talent from overseas.

We would also like to see the government recognise paid internships at start-ups for top STEM talents from growth markets, to engineers and UX).

Working mums have been losing out, we would like to see more support for women in the workforce, especially start-ups, including making childcare tax deductible and changing incentives so that women who are working full-time are not worse off than those working part-time.

Walta Kazzi, co-founder of easyshare

There is no doubt that after the GFC, ASIC has done a good job in maintaining confidence and integrity within financial services, as well as help clean up the industry by punishing wrong doers, but there is always room for improvement. I’d like to see policy makers make more informed decisions with collaboration outside of the top four banks prior to legislation being enacted and not after the fact.

The impact of new legislation should never be about solving one problem. In business the impact of regulation will always have a positive or negative domino effect on innovation, growth and the associated costs of operating a business.

Policy makers just like business leaders cannot make decisions in boardrooms without collaboration with key people who are steering the ships across the industry. New regulations should always be driven by well thought out plans with clear outcomes and objectives which consider all stakeholders including consumers, enterprise, creditors and investors.

For example, increased costs in compliance alone without the consideration for growth and innovation will have a negative impact on efficiency, which will lead to increased costs being passed on to consumers.

Phil Silverstone, general manager Australia of Eventbrite

Australia has done an excellent job of leveraging our natural resources to build a modern nation with one of the world’s leading economies. Now we need to harness our next great resource — our talent — to power our nation’s growth as we transition from our predominantly resource-based economy to a new, services-based ideas economy.

We must foster our amazing talent in Australia — and keep that talent here — by empowering startups to create the next great Australian success stories.

This is about completing the NBN so that every Australian has access to the internet and it’s resources. It is about cultivating S.T.E.M. graduates and embracing a fundamental shift of the workforce. It is about creating an ecosystem to provide the resources and support for startups to commercialise and scale.

The technology sector needs more governmental support in many ways. With the next government, I hope to see a strong commitment to and investment in this industry so that Australia can further its force of innovation in the global economy.

At Eventbrite, we’re committed to helping foster Australian innovation by creating technology jobs and driving collaboration by hosting events for the innovation community. I’m hopeful that the new government recognises this need for investment, and will increase support for Australian entrepreneurs to lead global disruption, rather than risk being disrupted.

Kate Morris, founder and CEO of Adore Beauty

I'd like to see policy makers from both sides put together a bipartisan plan for an apolitical NBN that (a) gives the necessary infrastructure for future innovation in this country, and (b) actually gets executed.

The NBN is (or should be) a huge investment in the future of this country and I think it's too important to be used as a political points-scoring exercise. A fibre-to-the-node network is not going to be fast enough, but a superior infrastructure isn't much help either if it never gets completed.

It will be worth spending the money if they can get it done right, and get it done more efficiently.

John Winning, CEO of Winning Group

From a retail er's perspective, for consumer confidence to grow, we require Australians to be confident in the economy. That confidence will only be achieved through economic stability and investment made into developing new industries for our country and our workers to flourish in.

The Government's plans that were announced in the Federal Budget were focused on creating jobs to stimulate our economy in the medium to long term, however post election it would also be great to see the successful party implement some specific short-term initiatives to encourage consumer spending.

Bao Hoang, co-founder and CEO of Rolld

I would like to see the removal of red tape around starting a small business. Currently small business owners need to jump through a number of unnecessary hoops to start and maintain a small business. There are countless permits, consultancy fees and council approval/requirements that businesses owners need to meet, that are only in place to raise revenue. These restrictions greatly impact the ability to start and sustain a small business.

As well as reducing or removing Sunday penalty rates on wages. Sunday penalty rates put an enormous strain on small business. If these rates were removed it would give small business owners more opportunity to hire additional staff, which would ultimately boost the Australian economy.

Reducing Sunday penalty rates was a recommendation that was also made last year by the Productivity Commission in their final report into Australia's workplace relations system.

Rob Newman, CEO at Nearmap

In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of new government initiatives, aimed at boosting startups and innovation, roll out. While this is all positive, it’s important that regardless of government changes, there is consistent and sustained support for Australian businesses. Unfortunately, all too often a new administration will cancel old programs, rename others and introduce new ones. This lack of consistency is hindering the innovation and startup industry.

Sometimes the best policy is in fact not to change policy. Australia’s innovation, tech and startup communities need policy consistency that continues across changes in leadership and changes in government. This is more important than simply releasing a new program every so often, and will ensure more employment opportunities for future generations of innovators.

Dan Nolan, Co-founder and Engineering Lead at Proxima

As a small, growing startup one of the biggest things we’d like to see is the removal of the fringe benefits tax (FBT), or at the very least, make compliance a much easier process for small businesses. The current policy makes it virtually impossible to offer perks to staff. It’s already hard enough to compete with the likes of Google and Amazon and this policy only makes it more difficult.

Policy makers need to make this whole policy simpler for small businesses. Remove the red tape, so we can focus on actually running the business and making it successful, without all the processes, which just slow everything down.

We’d also like to see a complete flip on the individual PAYG withholding rules. Quarterly filing is tedious. Half-yearly or yearly filing will make the process much easier for Australian businesses.

Policy makers should pass a bill as soon as possible to remove metadata retention. Not only is it a direct tax on internet usage, the implementation has been delayed time and time again due to government ineptitude. It's a huge violation of privacy for all Australians and makes us a laughing stock internationally.

Whichever party wins, they should commit to drop the internet tax.

James Chin Moody, Founder & CEO, Sendle

The world is changing fast. Over the next 10 years we will see things that were only science fiction a decade ago: self driving cars, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and drones. These technologies are poised to shape the world in ways that we can’t even imagine.

The golden thread running through all of these changes is simply this: that knowledge is going to be THE most important resource for any country. Forget minerals, forget agriculture – without a well educated population and vibrant entrepreneurial spirit, countries like Australia will be left behind in an ever competitive world.

So my wish for the next government is this. That they invest as much as possible in education so that Australians remain relevant, productive and genuinely innovative. This starts by making education our nation’s Number 1 strategic priority and redesigning our education system for the future rather than the past.

We should see education as an investment, not as an expense. In the same way that we talk about investing $7 billion into a new road, or $50 billion on submarines, why are our politicians not competing to see who can invest most in our kids and their education?

And it doesn’t just stop with kids. Oxford university predicted that 47% of current US jobs are likely to be displaced by computers in the next 15 years. Yes, you read that correctly – 47%. That gives us 15 years to navigate the most significant transformation of the labour force that the world has ever seen. And you can’t do that without a focus on education.

If we want Australia to do as well in the 21st Century as we did in the 20th we have to invest in our most vital resource: Australians.

Nick Austin, founder and CEO of Divvy Parking

What I want to see from both current and newly elected policymakers, is a true focus on building more sustainable, smarter cities. The way our cities are planned and the way they work has a crucial impact on citizens and economic growth alike.

Efficient urban areas will ultimately benefit all of Australians, and are essential for us to remain competitive on a global scale.

Our country needs smart funding of infrastructure projects that solve existing problems from their roots and foresee potential future issues — not create new ones to deal with later. We have a rapidly growing population that is putting huge pressure on our current resources and infrastructure, and it’s estimated that issues such as traffic congestion could cost the country up to $53 billion by 2031!

Improvements in this space require innovation, and for that to happen, we need greater collaboration between government and the private sector to increase connectivity and productivity in the way we live and work in our cities.

We’ve seen some progress here already, for example the new digital marketplace to help businesses access $5 billion worth of government ICT contracts, but we need less red tape and more action if we want Australia to be home to the most livable cities in the world.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has acknowledged that if we’re to transition into an ‘Innovation Economy’, governments and businesses need to work together to create high performing cities that attract and retain the best and brightest minds. Political leaders that embrace new ideas and exciting technology innovations being developed in the private sector are the ones I want to see in charge.

Gareth O’Reilly, zone president and MD Pacific at Schneider Electric

The 2016 Election holds a promise to end the political instability of the last nine years. Rather than the spotlight centred on the personalities of those in Government, it should be sensible policy and clear decisions that take the Australian Government forward post 2 July.

The economy, innovation, tax reform, climate change and education dominate the concerns of most voters – and rightly so. We need a leader with vision to solve these challenges.

At Schneider Electric, we have a vision around climate change and the efficient use of energy. It is a simple and powerful idea about using natural resources more productively – which is both profitable for business and better for the environment, and now is the time for our leaders to tackle this issue head on.

The impact of political leadership is not limited to policy decisions on carbon prices or renewable energy targets – it has an effect on energy consumption and behaviours that should not be underestimated. At the Paris Climate Conference, Australia agreed to work to cuts its net global emissions to zero by the second half of the century. To have any real chance of meeting this target, the party that wins office will need to ensure its policy mix supports the agreement signed in Paris.

Recognising the role of advanced manufacturing in Australia is another key consideration for future Government. Correctly harnessing the Internet of Things provides an incredible opportunity for the sector, however, we require innovative, forward-thinking policies to remain competitive in a global market place.

Craig McDonald, CEO and founder of MailGuard

Irrespective of who will be elected, our main concern is that cybersecurity will continue to be a priority for Government and our political leaders. The recently announced Cybersecurity Strategy was a welcome investment in the security of the nation, and raises the profile of cybersecurity amongst the business community in Australia.

In particular, it is was extremely pertinent that Mr. Turnbull called out the ‘culture of denial’ about cyber threats amongst many business leaders, and his appeal for greater cooperation between the private and public sector to address cybersecurity was very timely.

However, despite these positive steps forward, government can always do more. There are a lot of comparisons between what Australia has committed and the cybersecurity strategies of the UK and US, where the spend is between 10-400 times that of Australia.

Our respective circumstances are clearly different, so making a direct comparison is difficult. What is more productive is for the Australian Government to focus on improved collaboration and addressing the skills deficit. For example, following the announcement of the Cybersecurity Strategy in April, there was some commentary about the 900 specialist cybersecurity positions required to support the strategy.

The cybersecurity skills shortage is a very real issue in Australia. As a nation we need to begin investing to attract new talent and to upskill professionals in that area to ensure we can maintain pace with the evolution of the industry.

It’s critical that government leaders are aware of the fast-moving and complex nature of cyber crime, with advancing technologies and applications, privacy and cyber-threats all converging. There is already a myriad of different legislation across the Federal and State governments, so I’d like to see these policies come together in a cohesive nature to ensure that our nation’s digital borders are protected as stringently as our physical borders.

Ben Bucknell, CEO of OnMarket BookBuilds

The cost of raising new equity is a major factor for Australian companies – and the Federal Government should be concerned by recent moves by the ASX to make it more difficult for companies to list in Australia and more even difficult for the public to invest in company floats.

There are one million SMSF members accounting for $600 billion in assets that are largely unable to participate in initial public offerings (IPOs). This is one third of Australia’s retirement savings pool. That’s because IPOs are rarely offered to retail or SMSF investors in Australia and when they are, there is no guarantee they’ll be treated fairly in allocations.

The Hong Kong and Singapore Stock Exchanges both have rules ensuring all investors have guaranteed access to all IPOs. The ASX has no such protection.

We have started a petition at asking for the ASX to implement fairer listing rules so that every investor has a fair opportunity to participate by mandating that at least 25% of all IPOs be reserved for retail investors. At the time of writing, over 1,000 people have joined the petition.

We want the new government to support this proposal.

Trading on the ASX is governed by rules ensuring a fair, transparent and orderly market. It’s even more important that these principles apply to IPOs, because that’s the process companies use to raise capital to fund their growth. But the ASX wants to limit retail access to IPOs and we want the government or the Labor Party to make a commitment to ensure that retail investors and SMSFs have the same opportunity as big institutions to invest in IPOs.

Guy Eilon, CEO Forcepoint Australia

Australia needs a stronger data breach notification scheme to protect personal information held by corporates. Not only can data leaks have huge personal ramifications, but they impact the ability for individuals to be truly autonomous through the control of information.

Here in Australia we could learn a thing or two from our European counterparts who by 2018 will put a much stricter focus on data protection. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) means European companies are required to notify supervisory authorities in the case of a data breach within 72 hours.

As Australian companies aren’t under obligation to disclose data breaches it’s no surprise that data protection often comes as an afterthought. This means many organisations don’t have an established data breach plan to limit the effect of cyber-attacks or have the relevant people, process and technology in place to deal with recovery.

Not only are Australian citizens not notified if personal data is breached but they don’t have the same right to retract consent, request data erasure or portability as Europeans. This means companies can hold onto, and use, personal data long after benefits for the individual have passed.

With increased reliance on digital products and processes across industry, Australia should consider taking its own measures to strengthen citizen’s fundamental rights to the control of personal information, including the 'right to be forgotten' and the 'right of data portability'.

The updating of these laws should be a priority for the Australian government as they don’t only benefit consumers, but businesses too as data protection reform will help corporates regain consumers’ trust to use their services.

Martin Hosking, CEO and co-founder of Redbubble

Fostering a genuine culture of innovation in Australia will depend on going past rhetoric and current political realities. The entrenched interest groups – from the trade unions to the large corporations – have negligible interest in supporting an entrepreneurial culture and they have far too much influence over policy makers.

An entrepreneurial culture is actually about taking on entrenched interests and entrenched ways of doing things. As we have seen this will be resisted from groups as diverse as the coal lobby to the music and media and banking industries. Similarly our workplace laws are framed around a model that is rapidly passing into history – the 9-5 day, 5 days a week. Yet the trade unions pretend this is writ in stone.

So what do I as a founder and CEO of a successful start up? I ask for flexibility. I ask for the laws to evolve to allow new models to come into existence. I ask for resistance to entrenched interests and a willingness to give things time to bloom a little before they are crushed by negativity and denial.

Australia has had so few genuine tech successes because change is so vehemently resisted. The winners then tend to be the foreign corporations (from Uber to AirBnB) who gain enough foreign traction to enable them to push through here.

We need to reverse this and let Australia become the breading ground where innovation is easy and welcome.

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