Address to the Tech Council of Australia

Old Parliament House Canberra

Thanks, Mina [Radhakrishnan]. And thank you for your contribution to the Jobs and Skills Summit. It was very, very good and we're very grateful for it. 

I want to begin by acknowledging we’re on Ngunnawal land and pay my respects to Elders, past and present, and also to acknowledge any Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islanders that are here today. If I can acknowledge some colleagues. Amazing Anne Aly. How are you, Anne? Paul Fletcher, Shadow Minister for Science. I think Keith Pitt is here. Tim Watts. Where's Tim Watts? He was here earlier. And also Sussan Ley, Shadow Minister for Industry. 

I just want to acknowledge you've got people from all sides here, which is really important because, as you all well know, and the great thing about what the Tech Council has done in just 14 months is to be able to obviously put the concerns of the sector on the map. And I just want to congratulate, obviously there's the whole board there, but we know that if - everyone talks about energy transition in this country, if we could just find out a way to tap into the energy of [Tech Council CEO] Kate Pounder. 

I'm sure some days you don't think your energy is renewable, but you do a hell of a job, Kate. And I've got to say, Kate's advocacy, having been there at the other end of that advocacy, is very energetic, is very focused and she is absolutely representing the sector enormously well and we are very grateful that we have such a champion like you representing all of you here that are doing amazing things for our country. 

I'm not just focused in terms of what you're doing for the economy. That is very big. I'm not just focused on all the jobs that you're creating - very significant - but what you will do in terms of national well-being and you'll focus on achieving good for the country. Just want to let you know, one, it's recognised and two, we are here to back that and back that big time. 

Tomorrow, we are going to introduce one of the the largest co-investment funds the nation has seen, directed largely towards supporting growth in manufacturing capability, right through to the critical technologies that will drive future growth of this nation. And in particular if I look, for instance, at the critical technologies sub-fund that we've got there, promoting what's being done in quantum technology, in AI, in robotics, this is huge. 

And we want to make sure that with all the power of your ideas and when you want that support and you're ready to grow, that you never have to feel like you have to go offshore to get that support. We should be making sure that we have those strategic investments made available and doing what other countries have done for their own, we do it here, we make sure that you've got that level of support. 

Obviously, it's not going to be a free walk up and it's not going to be drive through at the National Reconstruction Fund. Don't anyone go ‘Why not?’. We're expecting that the propositions that come forward can stand on their own two feet, that they've been thought through, that they've got a business plan, that they've got a plan to grow jobs and we'll have an investment, we’ll have a board, independent, there'll be loans, equity guarantees, an independent board drawn from industry and investment circles to make those calls. 

For anyone who's familiar with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, that model there is going to be picked up for industry and drawn over. And the other thing I want to emphasise too, because there's some terrific people from venture capital that are here. 

If I may say, with venture capital we want to be able to work with superannuation, with VC, with private equity and be able to crowd-in that investment to create that pool of patient capital as well. Every one of you in this room knows we have huge potential. You know absolutely what we are capable of doing and we need to transform that potential now and we want to be able to work to make that happen. 

It's not just in terms of the fund thinking ahead, in terms of we're going to have the nation's first quantum strategy. We'll be working on robotics as well and doing all that. The other things that have been that have inspired our work, you know, we committed, in opposition, and we now have as a government aim 1.2 million tech jobs in this country by 2030. Tech Council inspired. And we're going to make that a big focus. And it's a big challenge too. 

There's a lot of jobs to fill, but we're looking at how that will get done. And it will get done in a number of ways. Not just the young people coming through. And we're looking at ways to make that happen. Also, people who want to make the transition from one sector to another, one role into tech-related jobs. We need to get more talent from overseas, we need to bring back Australians from overseas. And we also need to find a way that we can hold on to that experience that exists in the workforce, those people that have been in there for a while and want to be able to make a contribution and mentor. 

One of the things that we again announced with the Tech Council is a Digital and Tech Skills Compact where we will look at ways in which we can skill-up Australians, invest. 

So the NRF is about the capital, but we are going to invest in the human capital as well, looking at, for example, digital apprenticeships to be able to get, in particular, young people while they're doing their schooling, be able to get trained up and be able to provide you with those skills. And the other thing, obviously, that we're looking at is the skilled-migration pathway. And I know that's a massive issue for you all. 

And I have said, if I may be direct with you all, and it's not my want, I'm never that direct and straightforward. [laughter] The laughter hurt a little bit, but I've said, look, even if we fill every single local role with a local, which is what we should be aiming to do, I still want us to have pathways to bring talent in. 

We always need to replenish the knowledge base. If someone in one part of the world is doing something smart that we need to be able to bring in and we need to be able to learn from, we need to be able to do that as well. 

Knowledge needs to be able to move across borders and build opportunity and we want to make that happen as well. So enough of me. Wyatt Roy said today – hello Wyatt, and also, I just want to say good day to Jerome Laxale, Member for Bennelong. How are you, I saw you there. 

Wyatt [Roy] said today when he saw me because I was at the Press Club. And Wyatt said, ‘if we tied your hand, you would not be able to speak’. And I think he's right. But I did a bit of ranting tonight. But I feel strongly, I want you to know we absolutely, as a government, believe in the value of what we're doing. 

The other great thing tonight is you've got people from all sides of politics that are here because we do believe that there should be some things we don't need to fight about, that we can work on together in the national interest. And what you're doing is in the national interest now and into the future. 

Thank you for what you do and thank you, Tech Council, for being awesome.