Nothing tangible: Fletcher queries ‘thin’ quantum strategy

James Riley
Editorial Director

The federal Opposition has poured cold water on the just-launched National Quantum Strategy saying there was nothing in the document that would meaningfully boost Australia’s prospects for staying at the global forefront in quantum tech.

Shadow minister for science Paul Fletcher says the national strategy released this week was “thin”.

“It’s good that at least the strategy has been released, but there’s no tangible new action, and there’s no tangible new funding,” Mr Fletcher said. “So it is pretty obvious why Ed Husic has been steadily talking down expectations for the past few months.”

“There’s a fair bit of reference to the University Research Commercialisation Action Plan, which, of course, is a good thing. That was a Morrison Government initiative from the March 2022 budget,” he said.

“But beyond that, when it comes to funding, there’s just a vague reference to $1 billion under the National Reconstruction Fund for critical technologies, but no commitment as to how much, if any, of that will go to quantum research or quantum commercialisation.

“The bottom line is that there is no tangible new action, and no tangible new funding.”

Paul Fletcher at the National Press Club in Canberra

Most damning, Mr Fletcher says the strategy suffers from its omissions. While there was a clear need for a closer alignment between industry and government, the strategy had little to offer on this.

As a critical new frontier in technology, Mr Fletcher said quantum tech would be increasingly vital for both the economy and for national security, and that the strategy launched on Wednesday falls short of what is required.

Mr Fletcher said work on the National Quantum Strategy had been initiated by the former Morrison Government, which had also put money toward the Quantum Commercialisation Hub to foster strategic partnerships with like-minded countries to commercialise Australia’s quantum research.

It had also signed a joint statement in cooperation in Quantum Science and Technology with the United States, aiming to enhance each country’s quantum industry capabilities through improved market access and knowledge sharing.

Mr Fletcher declined to comment on the falling Commonwealth expenditure on research and development, which will hit a record low as a percentage of GDP, preferring to wait until after Labor delivers its federal Budget next week.

Industry department numbers predict that government spending on R&D will drop to a record low of 0.49 per cent of GDP in the 2022/23 financial year. The previous record low was 0.50 per cent of GDP recorded in 2018

Labor’s election policy platform included a commitment to push overall Australian R&D investment “closer to three per cent of GDP” from 1.79 per cent, as of 2020.

While not commenting directly on the government’s R&D expenditure numbers, Mr Fletcher said that given the commitments made by Labor in the lead up to the 2022, “the obvious question is how are they tracking against their commitments?”

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