Address to CeBIT Conference

23 MAY 2017

Thank you, all of you, who’ve travelled from overseas. It’s fantastic to be here; it’s great that we’re back in the CBD, in the central business district for CeBIT. Other venues are wonderful, but to be here in the new International Convention Centre is fantastic and well done to the New South Wales Government and Local Government for the role they’re playing in promoting Sydney, a global city which is going to get bigger and better over time.

I’m quite enthusiastic to be here. As a politician you do all sorts of events, but the best events are the ones where you come together with people who are at the cutting edge of change, of positive change, and that’s what you are doing. This whole business technology space is very important to where Australia is going, where obviously the world is going.

So congratulations to Deutsche Messe and your partners for organising this fantastic event, because for people like me, it also provides an opportunity to reflect on what government is doing, where there are gaps and opportunities and what we can do better. And the constant which underlines this is that for us, technology and disruption are a constant – they go together, it’s happening. Our role as a government is not to try and stop change; it’s to facilitate change in a way which maximises the benefits for our economy and our fellow Australians. And it’s important for us as a government to look at how we spread the benefits of these changes across the whole of the community. But the important thing is to understand what is enabling change and to harness those forces for good, and you are at the forefront of that sort of change.

So, what I’m looking for out of CeBIT is the making of new connections, of people coming together, fostering new ideas, new ways of looking at things and getting on with business. What we’re trying to foster in Australia today is an innovation mindset across the economy. We want everybody, whatever line of business you’re in, whether it’s a traditional business – we’ve done well in mining, we’ve done well in agriculture, we’ve done well in all sorts of services – but what we need across the economy as a whole is this innovation mindset; and we’re not afraid of the word innovation.

I know some people now say, ‘oh, should we be a bit scared because innovation means that jobs are going to go in so many areas?’ – but jobs are going to grow in others. There are jobs being created today that we have no idea. This is the lesson of history, this is the lesson of technological progress: we have to be optimists. Winston Churchill once said that the definition of an optimist was to see the opportunity in every challenge.

And that’s what you’ve done. When you’ve taken a risk, when you’ve backed an idea, when you’ve backed yourself or worked with others to bring something to fruition that everybody said, ‘well, I don’t know that that can be done, I don’t know that that’s really possible.’ But it’s that sort of optimism, that innovation mindset, which is important because we live in a part of the world now, in the Asia Pacific, where change is accelerating. No one is waiting for Australia to succeed; we’ve got to make our own way. So, for me, events like this are very important in that regard.

A couple of years ago when Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister, he sought to turbo-charge Australia’s innovation and science agenda. We had NISA One, as we called it, which was a whole series of measures around the culture and collaboration between particularly industry, government, researchers, academics, which is one of the areas in which we have particular focus as a government now because we punch above our weight when it comes to knowledge creation, but it’s that translation of that knowledge into new products and processes and commercialising outcomes where possible, here in Australia, we have a particular focus on.

We also focused on government as an exemplar when it comes to innovation; I’ll have a bit more to say about that in a minute. So we launched that particular set of initiatives at the end of two thousand and fifteen. We’ve implemented almost all of those measures. They covered areas around capital, how to further increase our venture capital market, how to make it easier for people to invest in start-ups, early stage ventures, and the like, and we’ve put more capital into our scientific and research infrastructure – and I’ll just come back to that – but for us, that’s not a one-off, it’s an ongoing investment.

Innovation and science, and what we do as a government, is an ongoing investment in the future of the country. And in the last budget we had, which was delivered a couple of weeks ago – seems like aeons ago the way politics is these days – but, we had a number of measures which built on all of that, and which are relevant, I think, to what we’re talking about here. We’ve provided in the budget fifteen million for the creation of a world first analysis platform for satellite imagery. Digital Earth Australia will transform the way satellite imagery is used in Australia, making it easily available through a range of free web services and online tools. The platform will provide new satellite imagery down to ten square metres every five days.

This will provide insight into water availability, among other things, the development of regions and cities and for productivity of agricultural land. Importantly, it will also provide users, including many of you here in this room, with open data to test ideas and develop new apps and tools with that. For us, access to open data is going to be very important going forward as a way of catalysing innovation, invention and change. So, any ideas, any feedback that in due course you have, whether it’s through the CeBIT organisers or others, about how we can make our open data regime the best in the world, I’m very keen to hear. Because one of the aspirations we have as a country is to build on our strengths, on the areas where we do well and be the best in the world; not just match best practice, but become best practice.

Another area where we’re working very closely with our state colleagues – and it’s great that Matt Kean is here because he’s holding the torch on much of this at the state level – we’re making it easier for businesses to deal with government. And as I said earlier, government needs to be an exemplar in how we use digital technology and data to delivery better information and services.

So we’re investing in a national business simplification initiative with our state governments. And in the last budget, we also included $9.1 million to simplify business registrations and licensing and permit information. Now this may all sound all very prosaic, unsexy, unglamorous, but if you are a business, let’s say you’re a café in parts of Sydney, and it’s taking you 18 months, countless forms, countless calls to people to get a business registered – let’s say it’s a café – we are reducing the time it takes, through initiatives like this, from 18 months to 3 months, in cooperation with our state colleagues. In doing that we link our business registration services with, among other things, Service NSW with its Easy to do Business program.

We want people to actually look forward to dealing with government. I have to register my car every so often here in NSW; I now look forward to going to Service NSW and doing it. I’m met by a concierge, I’m given a ticket, I’m screened for which line I’m meant to be in, and it doesn’t take very long to get served; so the back office has been modified to make it easy to do business. That’s what we want for business generally with government. So we’re working on all these ways we can collapse these various websites through which you access government.

Our ultimate objective is to have one way through the door and you can tic-tac with Commonwealth state and local governments to get all of your work done. There’s a whole series of technical things which lie behind what I just said, I won’t try to explain those to you, but the bottom line is it is making it easier to do business, but for businesses in this room, we’re also making it easier for you to do business with government.

Malcolm Turnbull was instrumental in setting up the Digital Transformation Agency, which is now run out of the Prime Minister’s portfolio, to transform how Australian Government buys digital services. We are keen, as I said before, to be an exemplar of how we adopt new technologies, and particularly how we digitise work of government and create better outcomes for people.

So the Digital Transformation Agency’s digital marketplace is simplifying the process of government procurement, and making it easier for businesses of all sizes to access government contracts. We’re very keen to make sure small-and-medium enterprises get a fair crack at government contracts, because often in government the reflex action has been to say, ‘well, if we buy Oracle, IBM, whatever, what could possibly go wrong? We’ll be protected, they’re big.’ What we’re trying to do is break through that cultural cringe, particularly to give our small and medium enterprises a fair go.

The reason I mention that to you is that that is an area in which we’re going to be expanding what we’re doing. We’re looking for ways of maximising participation of small and medium enterprises. This is something the Prime Minister in particular is very keen to pursue. It builds on other initiatives of the Government, I won’t describe them all now: we have a single touch payroll in the tax system coming through to help businesses, MyHealth records, the health payments system, and streamlining our online business registration services.

I just want to move on quickly to a couple of other areas, just to give you a flavour of what’s going on, and what the opportunities are. One of the most exciting announcements in the Budget was that we’re investing, over a decade, over $100 million in optical astronomy to advance our scientific and industrial capability.

And I want to acknowledge someone who has far more expertise in this field than anyone in this room, and that’s Dennis Andrucyk from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate who is speaking at the conference later this morning; a much more interesting address than this. Dennis you will be happy to know that we’re investing in a way that will allow us to enter into a ten year strategic partnership with the European Southern Observatory. It will give our astronomers access to world-leading infrastructure, and unprecedented international collaboration. It will also go to maintaining our world-renowned optical astronomy research and instrumentation capabilities.

You’ve got to have access to this global, world-class infrastructure if you’re going to do world class research. Australian businesses will have more opportunities to compete for international contracts, to collaborate on commercialising products across a range of industry sectors. So in meeting the scientific demands of international astronomy, the European Southern Observatory, the Square Kilometre Array – a huge astronomy project in Western Australia involving multinational cooperation – we’re pushing the envelope of our technological and data capabilities.

In the data domain our astronomy needs are stimulating the development of exoscale computing, new ways to manage large data pipelines, and international virtual observatory services. There is a lot coming and we’re committed to ensuring that powerful data processing and computing techniques are available for the benefit and uptake of researchers and businesses of all shapes and sizes across the economy. In this city, at the University of New South Wales, there are some revolutionary quantum computing techniques in the making.

We’re investing as a government in a new company, with a number of other players including from the private sector, to translate the work of the Centre for Quantum Information and Communications Technology, which has been doing world-leading research in this space, into the development of a silicone quantum computer chip, and that’s at the University of New South Wales.

We also want Sydney, in cooperation with other universities in the Sydney basin, to become the centre for a quantum computing ecosystem, through providing the appropriate education and training for people in this space. That’s a development we’re very keen to back. That was one of the many measures the Prime Minister in particular was very keen to support in our National Innovation and Science Agenda.

I don’t have time to go through some other initiatives, but I am conscious that, because of CeBIT and the German connection, I should mention that Australian and German industry signed an Industry 4.0 agreement recently to cooperate on the further development of Industry 4.0 initiatives around things like the Internet of Things, how they would promote for example advanced manufacturing.

And to capture the benefits offered by Industry 4.0 we need to focus on influencing open international standards. That’s part of the work we’re doing to help SMEs transform their business in the fields of cybersecurity, workforce planning, and education and training.

Before I conclude, Harvey made the point about cybersecurity, about a year ago we launched the cybersecurity strategy that had several elements: part of it was to build up our resilience dealing with cyber-attacks, having the capability to repel them, but part of it also is an industry development strategy, and as part of that we’ve set up a cybersecurity growth network headed by Craig Davies who is the senior security officer at Atlassian, one of our home-grown multinationals.

We are very serious about promoting our role in cybersecurity. I mentioned earlier about best practice, well cybersecurity is an area where we aspire to be the best in the world. I know that sounds like a big statement, I know the Americans are there, I know the Israelis are there, indeed I’d mention the Russians or the Chinese, but my point is simply this: we want to be the best in the world at this because we’ve got big capabilities to build on. So, ladies and gentlemen, you’ve come here at a time when there’s a lot of optimism about the future of technology and what we can do with it in the business sector and more broadly throughout our community.

We look forward to our interaction with other Australian companies, with individuals who are here, and please, any complaints, gripes or observations, pass them on to Harvey and I’m sure he’ll let me know what does and doesn’t work. Finally, welcome, thank you for coming to Sydney, you’re going to have a great time here, Sydney has put on great weather for you today, and I’m sure that will continue. Thank you.