When it comes to innovation policy, the Gillard government relies heavily on hot air to hide its lightweight commitment to Australia’s long-term future. In February, the prime minister painted a vision for a "high-tech, high-skill, clean-energy economy that is self-sustaining beyond our reliance on mineral exports". Yet the 2011-12 federal budget is light on detail about achieving this.

Given the rapid pace of clean-technology development in Europe and Asia and the pressure of the high dollar on manufacturers, developing a coherent set of policies to stimulate low-emissions technology is an essential risk management tool for any government hoping to last beyond the next election, let alone beyond the current mining boom.