Google and Australia Are Besties Again

Google and Australia Are Besties Again
Image: Google

Forgotten is the fact that Google last year threatened to pull its operation from Australia when the News Media Bargaining Code was ramming its way through Parliament. So much forgotten, in fact, that today Google announced it was investing $1 billion into Australia by way of a Digital Future Initiative.

Google is standing up a Digital Future Initiative. It involves not only promising $1 billion, but also laying the foundations for an Australian digital economy, placing a focus on Australian-made technology and talent and launching partnerships to solve big challenges.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai explained the foundations include investments in cloud infrastructure (data centres, with a new one coming to Melbourne) and that Aussie-made tech will come by way of Google’s first research hub in Australia.

“A Google Research Australia will build a team of local researchers and engineers to help tackle important issues, creating jobs and providing education and training,” he said of the Digital Future Initiative via a pre-recorded video message.

And where new technology partnerships are concerned, Google will work with the CSIRO to explore clean energy and ways to protect the Great Barrier Reef. It will also push forward work with Macquarie University to advance quantum computing.

“We believe a strong digital future is one where everyone has access to technology and the skills to use it,” Pichai said.

On the Digital Future Initiative, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had thoughts.

“The announcement by Google is a $1 billion vote of confidence. I believe in Australia’s Digital Economy Strategy,” he said, referencing that strategy announced during the Budget that we’ve seen not a lot from since.

“A $1 billion vote of confidence in our economic recovery.”

Morrison said as we move into 2022 that digital strategy, and the Digital Future Initiative, is central to securing recovery.

“A plan that puts business investors entrepreneurs in the driver’s seat to realise the opportunities that are ahead,” he said. “Today’s announcement by Google demonstrates that we are taking the right approach and it recognises the digital leadership that is necessary for Australia to emerge as a top digital economy by 2030.”

The Prime Minister not-so well-known for his tech prowess made some pretty valid points, however, acknowledging that private capital, investors and entrepreneurs are actually the ones that will drive this change. He said it’s up to the government to enable this to happen.

“We believe passionately in Australia that that entrepreneurship is actually what solves the world’s biggest problems … private capital, investment, entrepreneurship, collaborating with the world’s best scientists and researchers and innovators – that’s what solves the problems, not taxes and regulation.”

But then he lost us, again bringing up his digital world must mirror the IRL trope.

“But we are not naïve … we need to ensure that we apply the same rules to the digital world that exist in the real world. And this is a challenge for government,” he said.

Something unexpected from his speech during the Digital Future Initiative launch, however, was the acknowledgement that current visa conditions may be inhibiting Australia’s success.

“We’ll be bringing more talent to Australia to be part of it because it’s happening here in Australia,” he said. “It’ll have a ripple effect across our economy, supporting the creation of over 6,000 direct jobs and a total economic impact of some-$6.7 billion to our economy.”

But that doesn’t mean he wants Australia to be the next Silicon Valley, however.

“We just want to create something different here. We’re creating our own opportunities,” Morrison said.

Touching on the, um, disagreements Australia and Google have had in the past, the Prime Minister said he appreciates the approach Google has taken to dealing with them.

“We’ve sat down, we’ve worked through them and I think we’ve got the right result for both the citizens of Australia and for the technology future that we both want to embrace,” he added.

Digital Future Initiative
Google Australia and New Zealand MD Mel Silva with Scott Morrison. Image: Google