10 September 2021

Address to AmCham, Brisbane

Unleashing the future of the Digital Economy in Australia

Thank you for that warm welcome. It is terrific to join you today, to support the good work that AmCham does.

And particularly to speak on one of my very favourite topics – the digital economy.  Because, as the Prime Minister has said, every business is now a digital business.  The digital economy is really the whole economy. 

Ergo, that makes me the minister for the whole economy…but, please, no one tell Josh that. 

Its self‑evident that greater uptake of digital solutions will boost productivity and increase jobs. 

  • An AlphaBeta report for CSIRO’s Data61 estimated digital innovation can deliver $315 billion dollars in gross economic value to Australia over the next decade.
  • PwC has estimated that it could create up to 250,000 new jobs by 2025.

And as we recover from COVID‑19, that opportunity for job creation and economic expansion is more significant than ever. In October 2020, we released our Digital Business Plan, setting out how we are working to support the digitisation of Australian businesses, support for 5G, e‑invoicing, digital identity, streamlining regulation, and growing fintech and regtech. All underpinned by the $1.67 billion Cyber Security Strategy.

We know that businesses’ success in grasping these opportunities will be Australia’s success as a 21st century economy.

We are not the only nation focussing on the potential of the digital economy. The United States is forging down a similar path.

I noted with great interest the Biden Administration’s intention to pursue a data right, not dissimilar to our Consumer Data Right – an initiative that – while nascent ‑ has already enabled Open Banking in Australia and will soon be extended across other sectors of the economy like energy, telecommunications and more. 

The Australian Consumer Data Right is world leading and will be a key enabler in our digital economy arsenal. 

Consumers will be able access their own private sector data and share it – with full consents and safety – with a third party who has been accredited by the ACCC.  That data ‑ about you – whether it be how you bank, you energy usage, your telco information, your super, your insurance – might be leveraged to get you a better deal within those silos – or more exciting – to help develop and more accurately price bespoke product offerings within sectors, across sectors or in new products we are yet to imagine. 

Consumers using their own data that until now has been tightly held by the private sector – you can see why the Consumer Data Right is an economy transforming productivity booster. 

Beyond the domestic, digital trade and the flow of ideas and talent are vitally important to our trade relationships. Australia’s long standing trade relationship with the US has seen the US become our second‑largest two‑way trading partner in goods and services, worth $80 billion dollars.  The US is Australia’s largest and most significant investor, reaching at $929 billion dollars in 2020; and with $864 billion going back the other way, the United States is Australia’s largest foreign investment destination.

Increasingly, our global trade agreements are looking at how to harness the potential of the digital economy and how we must ensure online safety, cyber security and increasingly ‑ free flow of data with trust. 

The digital economy specifically forms part of our recent free trade agreement with the United Kingdom; our Digital Trade Agreement with Singapore is one of the first in the world, and I have no doubt that digital will increasingly become a dominant component of trade with our friends in the United States.

Indeed, you would have to be living under a rock to have missed the news that Australian fintech success story Afterpay has recently been acquired by American company Square. There is clear investment interest in both directions, and this trend is only accelerating.

As the Minister for the Digital Economy, my role is twofold:

  1. to coordinate digital initiative development and implementation across all portfolios from communications to treasury to home affair to skills and training, ensuring that we meet that vision to become a leading digital economy by 2030, 
  2. But also to champion the digital economy, to show the private sector that the government wants to work alongside you and to support you to fulfill your dreams,  and to ensure we are ambitious about Australia’s digital future.

That is why the Government released the Digital Economy Strategy and is investing an additional $1.2 billion in Australia’s digital future.

I’d like to take a moment to tell you about our investments in new and emerging technologies.

Continued rapid advancement in technologies like precision healthcare, low emissions technologies and assistive technologies will be crucial in delivering improved living standards to 2030 and beyond.

Australia’s strong foundations means we are well placed to realise the potential in these areas.

We have high levels of connectivity, high rates of technology adoption and we are world leading in ensuring digital technology is fair, safe and trusted.

Australia is already a market leader in new technologies in sectors that build on our traditional areas of comparative advantage.  Think mining equipment, technology and services, medical devices and diagnostics, and agricultural innovation.

To those of you in this audience with friends and colleagues to whom this might be news ‑ please let them know! Australia’s digital economy is growing rapidly, and it’s a terrific place to work, live and invest.

And rents in Melbourne and Sydney are kinder than San Francisco!

Of course we’re not resting on our laurels. We continue to build on those significant foundations. 

Last year alone we invested $4.5 billion in the National Broadband Network. NBN is now available to over 11.9 million premises, providing high‑speed internet to Australian households and businesses. And we’re approaching 5G coverage for 75 per cent of the population.

It’s a direction I noted again that the Biden Administration seems to be taking on board as well, with significant investments to upgrade connectivity across the United States announced by Secretary Buttigieg as part of the Infrastructure Bill currently under negotiation through Congress.

We are looking at how we can better leverage technologies that will have an uplift across sectors, such as AI, Internet of Things, data analytics, quantum technology and blockchain. 

For example, the Digital Economy Strategy commits $124 million dollars for AI initiatives, to grow the next generation of AI experts and boost SME capability and productivity. This brings the Government’s investment in AI to almost half a billion dollars in the last three years alone, since 2018. 

We’re also investing in new industries, to ensure Australia is primed to access emerging sectors. For example, we know that the global game development industry is worth $250 billion dollars and we want our share. We’re starting with a 30% tax offset for the gaming industry to boost local businesses and talent, and increase inbound investment. This will in turn have a flow on benefit in terms of talent, skills and opportunities in other sectors. 

This is just the beginning: we recognise technology is fast changing and evolving. 

For just that reason, the Digital Economy Strategy is a living strategy ‑ we will continue to track progress towards our 2030 vision and adjust course as we need to, to ensure we are successful in reaching our ambition.

Together we can ensure that Australia will secure its future as a modern and leading digital economy and society by 2030.

Thank you.