Tuesday, 17 October 2023
The growth of Australia's economy over recent decades has been heavily based on technological innovation, and that will be of continuing importance to our progress in future decades. We know that software provides the opportunity for significant productivity improvements for cost reductions, for new products and for transforming how we work. At the start of the 20th century it would have been impossible to overstate the impact that electricity was going to have on our economic and social lives, and, similarly, here in the early part in the 21st century it's impossible to overstate the impact that software will have.
We know Australia has a productivity problem. Over the long run our productivity has grown at an average of 1.5 per cent a year, but, in the five years to 2019, that dropped to 1.1 per cent a year, and the performance under the first year of this government has been very poor. What we also know is that this government does not seem seized with the urgency of boosting our digital economy. We don't have a minister for the digital economy under this government. We don't have a clear national goal for Australia to be a leading digital economy. As the Business Council commented in its recent report, Seize the moment:
On our current path, we face the real risk of Australia being overtaken by the rest of the world and Australians being worse off for generations to come.
But the report also highlighted the way that Australia could boost its productivity, including through the use of technology and the use of software.
As shadow minister for science and the digital economy, I've been privileged to see a number of examples of great work being done by Australian researchers and businesses. For example, I recently visited Diraq, a company spun out of the University of New South Wales and based at that university's Kensington campus. It was an opportunity to learn about their world-leading quantum technology and their efforts to commercialise that technology, and it was a privilege to meet and learn from the CEO and founder of Diraq, Andrew Dzurak, who is also the Scientia professor in quantum engineering at UNSW. It was coalition government investment into quantum research and infrastructure at the UNSW Sydney that was an important enabler for Diraq to undertake world-leading quantum computing research in spins in silicone quantum dots, attracting world-leading academics and employees, as well as global investment.
I recently also had the privilege in Emu Plains, on the other side of Sydney, to visit a startup called AusComply, which is led by managing director and founder Jason Thomas. It's an end-to-end mobile compliance platform and consultancy, helping the liquor, gaming and security industries manage compliance, register incidents, track data and analyse results. Since its launch in 2015, the business has recorded more than two million incident reports, and it's all done using digital tools that make it easier for licensed clubs and other organisations to comply with their regulatory obligations. Recently I met Brett Baker and Carolyn Hough of the technology company Torqn, which is serving the mining industry. Their clever technology takes a social media approach to sharing information about complex mining equipment, meaning solutions to equipment problems can be crowdsourced globally, shared instantly and searched easily. As a result, equipment can be fixed more quickly, saving downtime and improving productivity.
Recently I had the privilege of visiting the Australian Genome Research Facility, the AGRF, at their University of Queensland premises in Brisbane. Under the stewardship of the CEO, Joe Baini, and lab manager David Hawkes, they're working with a company called Genics. The Genics chairman, Roger Sayers, and chief executive and distinguished and accomplished scientist, Melony Sellars, explained to me that Genics is commercialising research done at the CSIRO over many years—research led by Melony Sellars. What that allows them to do is deliver services to support farmers to identify harmful pathogens by smartly harvesting new data tools to reduce the time required for genomic testing. They've got a presence in the prawn industry and in the pork industry, and their test can efficiently, quickly and cost effectively test for, right now, some 11 pathogens in one test, and that number will increase in the next iteration to be released shortly.
While technology and digital innovation will play a defining role in Australia's economic future, ultimately this depends upon smart, creative and clever people, and it is a privilege, as shadow minister for science and the digital economy, to meet so many smart, clever and innovative Australians doing great work, building great companies and building our prosperity.