Pressure to release national quantum plan

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The Opposition is demanding Industry minister Ed Husic release the National Quantum Strategy, warning its absence is creating drift and risking Australia’s “status and ability to compete” as other nations double down.

The minister received a draft of the strategy in December last year from Australia’s chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley, who had led its development for more than a year in a process that began under the Morrison government.

A final version has not been released and no launch date has been offered for the strategy.

The sector is tipped to be worth $6 billion to Australia by the next decade and employ — as many people as the oil and gas sectors do today.

Through the looking glass: Industry minister Ed Husic with quantum leader Michelle SImmons

In government, Mr Husic threw his support behind the strategy, the local sector and the “heroes” working in it by making quantum a key plank of the new government’s technology push.

Many in the sector were expecting the strategy to be revealed during a quantum event in February headlined by the minister.

Mr Husic told the event the strategy would set the country up to be a “big player, not a bit player” in quantum, and has since hinted it will take a much longer view of the emerging sector’s needs compared to typical government strategies.

But he has also suggested the forthcoming strategy won’t be accompanied by the massive, dedicated government investment the technology sector is seeking, creating some unease as other countries pour public and private funds into quantum.

It is now one-and-a-half years since the development of the National Quantum Strategy was announced and four months since Mr Husic received the final draft.

Its absence is creating a risk, Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy Paul Fletcher said on Tuesday.

“Australia is a world leader in quantum technologies, but the lack of direction on it to date from the Albanese Government is risking our status and ability to compete.

“Quantum is not something read about in a science-fiction novel – it is increasingly vital to our economic and national security.”

Mr Fletcher said his visits to universities and private quantum firms were encouraging but showed a “clear need for alignment between industry and government to catalyse commercialisation of this emerging technology”.

“The Albanese government and Minister Husic need to get serious about backing Australian quantum science and businesses and release the National Quantum Strategy as a priority,” Mr Fletcher said.

In Opposition, the Labor party warned the local quantum sector was losing its edge after years of underfunding compared to competing countries, accusing the then Coalition government of having “dithered” while local researchers were leaving the country for better opportunities overseas.

Mr Husic’s office did not respond to questions on the release of the strategy when contacted on Tuesday.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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