Opposition leader Bill Shorten has promised a Labor government would introduce coding, digital technologies and computer science lessons in every primary school in Australia as a “national priority”.
Shorten last night delivered his response to the Government's 2015 Budget handed down by Treasurer Joe Hockey on Tuesday.
He has staked Labor’s economic policy on the development of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills, and nurturing business innovation through national start-up funds.
One of the centrepieces of Labor’s policy response is a promise to work with the states and the national curriculum authority to introduce digital technologies classes into all schools.
“Coding is the literacy of the 21st century,” he said. “Under Labor, every young Australian will have the chance to read, write and work with the global language of the digital age.”
Shorten also pledged to offer additional training to 25,000 primary and secondary teachers, claiming 20,000 science, IT and maths teachers currently practicing had never studied their subject at university.
A Labor government, he said, would aim to attract 25,000 science and technology graduates into teaching, and would off the HECS debts of 100,000 STEM students in an effort to boost dwindling student numbers in the area.
His advocacy was echoed in the NSW Legislative Assembly by Sydney independent Alex Greenwich, who called on the state to adopt the digital technologies component of the national curriculum into local schools.
Greenwich complained that Australian tech companies and start-ups were reporting a "chronic lack of local skilled graduates”, and warned that NSW risked falling behind other states already progressing with the content.
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said NSW would continue to stand by its state-based curriculum, which he said spans the full range of skills from word processing to “the agile coding methods used in the development of programs in year 12 Software Design and Development”.
Beyond education, Shorten also promised to establish a $500 million smart investment fund to back Australian innovations with start-up capital.
“[The fund] will partner with venture capitalists and fund managers to invest in early stage and high potential companies,” he said.
Labor also committed to partner with banks to kick off a ‘StartUP Finance’ partial guarantee scheme.