Google Aust reassures govt on research commitment

James Riley
Editorial Director

Big Tech search and media giant Google has moved to reassure the federal government that its global workforce reduction plans will not have any impact on its research commitments in Australia.

The company has also assured Industry and Science minister Ed Husic’s office that it would continue to invest in its much-vaunted Digital Future Initiative.

Mountain View based Google announced plans to reduce its global headcount by 12,000 – or about 6.5 per cent – three weeks ago via a blog post from chief executive Sundar Pichai. Mr Pichai is also chief executive of Google parent company, Alphabet.

Google employees affected by the layoffs in the US were notified in January at the same time Mr Pichai published his blog. Google workers in other markets were expected to find out over the weeks following that announcement.

In Australia, the redundancies were understood to have been planned for last week, although Google Australia would not confirm this. A Google Australia spokesperson said the company would not provide any detail beyond the statement from Sundar Pichai three weeks ago.

Google Australia managing director Mel Silva with former Prime Minister Scott Morrison

The company is understood to employ 2,000 to 2,100 people in Australia, although local representatives would not confirm this number on Monday. Proportionally, if the job cuts match the percentage overall, Google Australia would be expected to shed about 135 staff.

Mr Pichai said Google had undertaken a “rigorous review” to make sure that people and roles were “aligned with our highest priorities as a company” and that the roles being eliminated cut “across Alphabet, product areas, functions, levels and regions.”

The local spokesman said Google Australia’s Digital Future Initiative would not be affected and was unrelated to the global announcement.

A spokesperson from Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic’s office said “Google Australia has assured our office that it will continue to invest in the Digital Future Initiative and there is no change to its research commitment in Australia.”

Google Australia managing director Mel Silva unveiled the plan in November 2021 to invest $1 billion over five years under the Digital Future Initiative in Australian infrastructure, research and partnership.

The initiative was a huge commitment, with participants at the launch event including the then Prime Minister Scott Morrison, former Digital Economy minister Jane Hume, CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall, and Ms Silva as the local managing director.

Google Australia, which employs about 700 engineers locally, celebrated 20 years in the Australian market in 2022.

Local workforce reductions come at a time when the local operation has been powering. The last full year local snapshot of numbers for 2021 put revenue earned in Australia at $7.2 billion, up 38 per cent in a pandemic year.

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