Quantum lobbyists go to work for PwC

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

PwC has engaged the lobbying firm that helped an American quantum computing company secure a near $1 billion government investment this week, as a path back to government work emerges for the big four consulting firm.

An update to the register of Canberra lobbyists on Tuesday shows PwC has engaged Brookline Advisory, a Labor aligned firm that lobbied over the last year for PsiQuantum.

The disclosure came on the same day the federal and Queensland governments confirmed they will provide the US firm founded by two Australians with grants, loans and equity worth $940 million. In return it will set up regional headquarters in Brisbane and attempt to build the world’s first quantum computer.

Parliament House
Parliament House, Canberra

The unprecedented Australian government investment in a startup capped a secretive market test that the government’s top quantum advisor reportedly said put PsiQuantum a “country mile ahead” of 20 other firms allowed to participate.

But the government has had to defend the opaque selection process that sidelined expert advisors, forced firms to sign non-disclosure agreements and was criticised by some as being structured in a way that favoured PsiQuantum’s technologies.

Behind the scenes, Brookline Advisory has been lobbying for PsiQuantum since at least May last year to help it land meetings with state and federal government officials and senior ministers.

The firm was set up by Defence minister Richard Marles’ former chief of staff, Lidija Ivanovsk, and former Labor staffer Gerard Richardson.

According to the federal register of lobbyists, Brookline’s other clients include Tamboran Resources, the largest private stakeholder in the controversial Beetaloo Basin project, and tech platform companies DoorDash and Didi.

As of Tuesday, PwC is also a Brookline client.

PwC’s presence in Canberra was scaled back last year following the tax leaks scandal.

After the revelation that one of its former partners had disclosed confidential government information that was then used to market tax avoidance schemes to clients, PwC sold of its government consulting business entirely for $1, but remains a top audit firm.

PwC declined to comment on its engagement of Brookline.

The Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee is inquiring into the access to Parliament House by lobbyists, with experts warning the current lack of appropriate regulation for Canberra lobbying is eroding integrity.

Having received almost 350 submissions, the inquiry this week received a short extension and will deliver a final report next week.

While PwC has stopped its federal consulting work, it had continued to provide some auditing services to agencies.

In a procurement policy note published on Tuesday, the Finance department said it had reached an agreement with PwC that it will not bid on any new federal government work for at least seven months.

Finance – which is coordinating the government’s response to the scandal – said officials should not enter into any new contracts with PwC until at least until 1 December 2024 in recognition of the “significant number of outstanding investigations still underway”.

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