The Tech and Climate Election Promises Made by All the Major Parties

The Tech and Climate Election Promises Made by All the Major Parties
Image: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

As we all know by now, the 2022 Australian Federal Election will be held tomorrow, May 21. It’s now only one sleep away (thank god) and thanks to all the campaigning from current Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his opponent Anthony Albanese, we have a number of election policies to tie up in a neat little bow for you.

While there’s a number of initiatives promised from both the Albanese-led Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Morrison-led Coalition (Liberal and National parties), there’s also some made by Adam Bandt’s Australian Greens and Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP). However, we’ll just be drilling into the technology/environment adjacent announcements — the stuff Gizmodo Australia covers (and will be tracking into the future).

Key policy announcements

There’s been a number of policies announced in the lead up to the election, spanning aged care and health through to education and the larger economy. Let’s tackle them all, like Morrison did that kid.

The Coalition

So far, the Scott Morrison-led Coalition has been a little light on tech-related promises and policies ahead of the election, and even more light where climate change/the environment is concerned. But here’s what we’ve got so far:

Reducing emissions – the Coalition says it’s committed to reducing emissions through technology, not taxes. If we can remember that speech Morrison and Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor gave last year that mentioned ‘tech’ 63 times without saying which tech, it was about the Technology Investment Roadmap, which prioritises investment in: hydrogen; long duration energy storage; low emissions steel and aluminium production; carbon capture and storage; and healthy soils.

Strengthening the grid – the Coalition says that by strengthening the grid we will enable electricity to be shifted and shared across Australia, making it more accessible and affordable. The policies the Coalition is carrying into the Federal Election include an investment in Snowy 2.0 (one of the largest pumped hydro projects in the southern hemisphere) and Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation and an interconnector.

Great Barrier Reef – Morrison in March announced a $63.6 million investment in science and research infrastructure to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

Bushfire recovery – there’s also a $200 million investment and a policy to help native wildlife and their habitats recover from the devastating impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires. There’s also a handful of pre-election policies announced to support regional Australia, in particular businesses, in this space, too.

NBN & telco – the federal government is pledging a $480 million investment to improve NBN infrastructure in regional, rural and remote areas. NBN Co will chip in $270 million more from its own funds, bringing the total value of the upgrade to $750 million. A telecommunications package to expand mobile coverage across 8,000 kilometres of regional transport routes was also flagged at the 2022 Budget.

Reforms to reduce red tape – reforms around employee share schemes sailed through Parliament just days after they were announced. As InnovtionAus explains, the ESS reforms are aimed at making it easier for Australian companies to compete for talent and level the playing field for smaller firms.

A strategy for a digital economy – the Australian government has recently updated its Digital Economy Strategy, which includes $1 billion for the Technology Investment Boost (for small businesses to invest in tech), $70 million to establish a Quantum Commercialisation Hub, $22.6 million to further support 5G innovation, $3.9 million for helping women transition mid-career to digital workforce, reforming Australia’s payment system for the digital age aaaaand keeping Australians safe and secure online, such as through the Online Safety Act. Although, these are all policies announced before the election was called.

Big Tech, big safety – Big Tech will be required to build enhanced safety controls into their devices that are easy for parents to use and hard for children to bypass, if the Coalition is returned to government. Basically, technology companies would need to create the safeguards for smartphones and tablets as part of a new eSafety package. The eSafety Commissioner would work with the likes of Apple and Samsung to design device settings and a binding code under the Online Safety Act.

More for eSafety – the eSafety package also includes $23 million to raise awareness of eSafety support in schools and provide teacher training and resources, with around $10 million reportedly also go to the eSafety Commissioner to make it easier for people to report online harms, by expanding coordination with other regulatory and law enforcement agencies.

Chip shortage solution – in a bid to tackle the chip shortage, Morrison said if re-elected he will devote $324 million to expanding the supply chain resilience initiative (SCRI), with $15 million used to support supply chain monitoring, which includes $1.3 million to commission the chief scientist to develop a national plan for semiconductors to address current and future supply. At the same time, it’s reported that $27.3 million will be handed out to 18 successful semiconductor and water treatment chemicals projects under round two of the SCRI grants.

Labor

Labor leader Anthony Albanese says he has a “real plan for a better future”. During his Budget reply speech last month, he declared: “Climate change is here and its consequences are devastating”. As we head into the election, Labor’s promises and policies reflect this. They include:

Powering Australia plan – under Labor’s plan, more than 200 of the nation’s heaviest polluters will be required to collectively lower their emissions over the next three decades to help achieve an economy-wide cut of 43 per cent by 2030, and net zero emissions by 2050.

Modernising the grid – this is an older commitment, made well before the 2022 Federal Election was on the cards. “Australia should be a renewable energy superpower, but our electricity transmission system is desperately outdated”, Albanese said previously. Labor’s Rewiring the Nation initiative will invest $20 billion to rebuild and modernise the grid.

‘Better’ NBN – with a $3.2 billion investment and an election policy to support it, Labor wants expand full-fibre access for a further 1.5 million homes and businesses, including up to 660,000 more premises in the regions. Upgrade fixed-wireless to make speeds of 100 Mbps available to all users and expand the coverage of fixed-wireless to a further 120,000 currently satellite-only premises. It also wants to boost the monthly data allowance for remaining SkyMuster satellite customers.

More tech jobs – Labor wants us to know it has a plan to grow an additional 340,000 tech-related jobs by 2030, bringing the total to 1.2 million. Election policies also include support for the creation of new firms and jobs through its previously pitched ‘Startup Year’, by offering 2,000 government supported places at accredited university accelerators.

Advanced Manufacturing Fund – this $1 billion plan will “rebuild our industrial base creating new capabilities and opportunities to innovate in transport, defence, resources, agricultural and food processing, medical science, renewables and low emission technologies manufacturing”.

Stopping the scams – Labor has previously promised to establish a National Anti-Scam Centre, and task a Minister with direct portfolio responsibility for championing the protection of consumers and businesses online.

Pandemic prep – another thing Labor wants to do if it’s successful at the 2022 Federal Election is establish an Australian Centre for Disease Control, with Albanese saying this will strengthen Australia’s response to future pandemics.

Multinational tax avoidance –  the ALP has also vowed to close the multinational tax avoidance loophole, with plans to claw back $1.9 billion over forward estimates.

Robo-debt Royal Commission – Labor has been calling for a Royal Commission into the Centrelink automated compliance scheme, colloquially known as robo-debt. As we head into the election, this is still on Labor’s list of policies, specifically with a focus on pointing the blame. Worth noting, however, the Australian Greens asked for one first.

EVs and some charging stationsdubbed “Driving the Nation”, Labor’s pitch is to create a $500 million investment in a national EV charging network. This is twice the amount that the Coalition has committed to a national EV charging network, with Labor arguing that only 10 per cent of the government’s commitment has been fulfilled. Labor says that this fund will allow for co-investment in additional EV chargers, along with hydrogen and biofuel infrastructure.

Electric buses – the ALP pledged 130 new, locally manufactured electric buses for Western Australia. It will be a combined investment (a federal Labor government and state government spend) of $250 million.

myGov audit – myGov, the federal government’s online portal, will undergo an audit if Labor win the election. The user audit, Albanese said, will take a fresh look at how well myGov is performing when it comes to reliability and functionality for a user-friendly experience. Labor reckons there’s just been “too many crashes and outages”, pointing to that time Minister Stuart Robert thought myGov had been DDoS’d.

The Australian Greens

The Greens’ 2022 Federal Election plan is simple. “Here’s our plan: We will tax the billionaires & big corporations, and provide the things we all need for a better life,” its website states. Today, they’ve announced assistance for the animals. It’s quite a bold commitment. Here’s what they’re focusing on:

Plan to phase out coal, oil and gas – “We are in a climate emergency,” the Greens state. They declare that without a plan to phase out coal and gas, there is no plan for the climate crisis. The plan for this plan is to make big corporations and billionaires “pay their fair share of tax to clean up the mess they’re making”, fund the transition to 100 per cent renewables and kick off a full-scale renewable export industry.

Environment and animals – the Greens already had new environmental laws to stop corporations trashing the environment as part of its election plan, but now, they’ve taken it one step further, promising to appoint an Independent Environment Protection Watchdog to make sure no more animals go extinct. Zero extinctions by 2030, in fact. The Greens’ $24 billion environmental plan also calls for 2 billion trees to be planted by 2030 and for bushfire-ravaged forests and bushlands to be restored. According to the ABC, the Greens will fund this by “taxing billionaires and big corporations”, bringing us to….

Taxing billionaires – the Australian Greens want billionaires and big corporations to “pay their fair share”. They have promised to put in place a new Corporate Super-Profits Tax of 40 per cent on big corporations, introduce an annual extra 6 per cent wealth tax on billionaires, tax the mega-profits of big corporations earning over $100 million annually, crackdown on multinational tax avoidance and “end government handouts to the billionaires and the big corporations, like the fossil fuel industry”.

The UAP also has a number of policies on its agenda in the lead up to the Australian Federal Election and beyond.

What do these proposed policies mean for Big Tech?

While no solid promises have been made under the guise of “this is our Australian Federal Election commitment”, there’s one thing all parties can agree on, and that’s that ‘Big Tech’ needs reigning in. The internet isn’t exactly going away any time soon, so we can expect a lot of work to be done in this space regardless of which party gets in. Worth noting, too that it’s not just the ALP and Coalition that want this work – MP Craig Kelly (who has joined Clive Palmer’s UAP) is also keen to probe the tech platforms. While the Australian Greens have been mostly supportive of tech giant adjacent initiatives, they have slapped a post-it note with their concerns next to certain policies.

Morrison also reignited his distaste for social media during the first leader’s debate, blaming Australia’s lack of faith in the political system on Big Tech.


We’ll keep updating this article as more information becomes available. The last update was made May 20, 2022.