‘Really optimistic’: Tech sector leaders welcome Labor’s new Cabinet


Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

There is real reason for optimism for the tech sector with Labor’s new Ministry, led by the appointment of long-time advocate Ed Husic to lead the Industry portfolio, Square Peg co-founder Paul Bassat says.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese unveiled his new Cabinet on Tuesday evening, appointing Mr Husic as Industry minister, Clare O’Neil as Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security, Tim Ayres as Assistant Minister for Manufacturing and Bill Shorten to oversee the NDIS and government services.

Square Peg co-founder Paul Bassat

These new ministers have been widely welcomed by the Australian tech and startup sectors, with hopes there will be newfound stability and an innovation-focus with the country’s industry policy.

Mr Bassat, who co-founded Australian tech giant SEEK, said that Mr Husic has a proven track record of supporting the local tech sector, and welcomed his appointment as Industry minister.

“It’s obviously very early days but I know Ed Husic has been a really big advocate over a long period of time for the importance of startups and the importance of digital transformation for the Australian economy, so I’m really optimistic that we’re going to see an increased focus and attention on the area,” Mr Bassat told InnovationAus.com.

“And to understand that the way forward in terms of creating national prosperity is a really vibrant startup ecosystem which is employing lots of Australians in really highly productive, rewarding and well-paid jobs. He’s one of the people in public office who really understands that, and I hope it’s a renewed area of focus.”

In terms of tech policy, Mr Bassat said he hopes the new Labor government focuses on the research and development tax incentive (RDTI), startup support and addressing the skills gap.

“[The RDTI] hasn’t really worked very well for a long time and in particular we’ve seen the way the definition is applied to software just doesn’t work. So it’s quite a technical point but it’s very important,” he said.

“And if we go back 10 to 15 years to the introduction of the Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnerships program, that’s a really important initiative that kick-started more venture capital in Australia – that was an important catalyst to support startups. What’s the next phase of policy reform that’s going to really drive the next wave of startup activity in Australia? That’s a really important question.

“And labour markets are incredibly tight across the board. High-growth companies simply can’t find enough people. That’s an important limitation.”

The new government frontbench, especially Mr Husic’s appointment, has also been welcomed by industry group FinTech Australia.

“Ed Husic has been a long-running champion of the technology sector in Canberra. In his early days in Parliament he started the IT price inquiry, investigating the price discrepancies between digital products in Australia and the rest of the world,” FinTech Australia general manager Rehan D’Almeida said.

“This set the tone for a Parliamentary career focused around the tech sector, and has culminated in this appointment in the Albanese government. He comes to the role with both a deep knowledge of the sector and its key players.

“We look forward to working with Ed and the government on a number of key issues in the fintech industry, including the rollout of the Consumer Data Right, regulation of cryptocurrency and the imminent launch of PayTo.”

Mr Husic and Mr Ayres’ new roles are a positive step towards Australia improving its sovereign capability in technology and manufacturing, METS Ignited CEO Adrian Beer said.

“The announcement signals a commitment to building innovative technology and commercialisation programs in Australia. Australian technology companies provide a more effective pathway to commercialise the innovation stranded within research and our resources sector,” Mr Beer said.

“Commercialising technology enables access for multiple industry sectors. Where manufacturing is a horizontal enabler for industry, technology that addresses key outcomes – such as safety, low emissions technology, automation and robotics, data and analytics and AI – delivers benefits right across the economy.”

There were eight different Industry ministers over the nine years of Coalition government, and Mr Bassat said he hopes Mr Husic provides some much needed stability in the role.

“Anytime there’s a new minister there’s a period of getting up to speed and learning the portfolio, so having the frequency of changes we’ve seen in the last few years makes it really, really hard,” he said.

“Mr Husic is so focused in this area and has so much expertise – I hope he’s in place for the entire term of government.”

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