Labor’s strongest tech sector advocate Ed Husic is back on the frontbench after stepping down as shadow minister for the digital economy last year.
Mr Husic will initially serve as shadow minister for resources and agriculture after Joel Fitzgibbons stood down from the role on Tuesday morning. Following a planned government reshuffle by the end of the year, Labor is expected to also unveil a shadow cabinet reshuffle in which he may be appointed to a more technology or jobs-focused portfolio.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese announced Mr Husic’s return to the shadow ministry on Tuesday afternoon.
“Ed is an outstanding Parliamentarian and an outstanding representative of Western Sydney,” Mr Albanese said. “He’s someone who says what he thinks, he’s someone who comes at it with a great sense of humour and character, and he’s someone who has policy detail experience. He is someone who could fill a whole range of portfolios across the board.
“Before the government reshuffle at the end of the year, Ed Husic will be the shadow minister for agriculture and resources, and then we’ll have a fuller change at the end of the year. He’s someone who will have a contribution not just in this portfolio but also in debates.”
Speaking to the media, Mr Husic said “it’s good to be back”.
“I’ve tried to be as direct and straightforward and speak from the heart in relation to the things I care about. I’m very happy to be responsible for two industries that have been the absolute bedrock of the Australian economy. It will be a huge honour to be in those portfolios,” Mr Husic said.
Mr Husic was shadow minister for the digital economy from 2016 and shadow minister for human services from 2018, up until Labor’s election loss last year.
Following the loss, Mr Husic stood down from the roles to make way for Senator Kristina Keneally to take on the Home Affairs portfolio as part of the factional mathematics that determines ministry positions.
He has been a long-term supporter of, and advocate for, the tech and startup sectors, and has remained so from the backbenches. In June Mr Husic called for a “smart restart” with a focus on these sectors to drive Australia’s economic growth following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Attacking friction points, reducing frustration – if any group can be mobilised and come up with ideals to deal with this it’s Australia’s tech community, large and small. To tackle those problems and also help inject new life into the economy, what we need now is a smart restart,” Mr Husic said in June.
“Out of this crisis comes the chance to do things differently. There is no better time to get started. Let’s get on with.”
Mr Husic called for a number of immediate changes to “mobilise and engage” the tech sector, including the doubling of the Accelerating Commercialisation program, early payments of the research and development tax incentive rebates, a government-backed seed investment program.
In the longer term, he argued for a National Entrepreneurship Pathway focusing on new companies and jobs.
From the backbench, Mr Husic has also raised concerns with the government’s decision to hand a contract to manage cloud hosting duties for the COVIDSafe app to US company AWS, calling for this to be rescinded.
He has also warned that plans to force Google and Facebook to enter into revenue sharing deals with news companies risks being a “bailout” for News Corp.