With Labor making big promises during its election campaign, including a $1 billion critical technologies fund, the startup community is ready for big and bold changes and it welcomed the appointment of Ed Husic as the nation’s new Industry and Science Minister on Wednesday.
Husic is no stranger to Australian startups, having served in numerous parliamentary positions related to the startup and tech industry since he was elected to the House of Representatives for Chifley in 2010. After a stint as shadow minister for the digital economy, Husic rejoined the Labor frontbench in November 2020, in the agriculture and resources portfolio.
Speaking to SmartCompany, Rehan D’Almeida, general manager of FinTech Australia described Husic as a “long-running champion of the technology sector in Canberra”.
Husic started the IT price inquiry in his early days in Parliament, D’Almeida says, which investigated the price discrepancies between digital products in Australia and the rest of the world.
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“This set the tone for a parliamentary career focused on the tech sector, and has culminated in this appointment in the Albanese government,” D’Almeida said.
“He comes to the role with both a deep knowledge of the sector and its key players.”
The key issues FinTech Australia hopes to work with Husic on include the rollout of the Consumer Data Right (CDR), regulation of cryptocurrencies and the pending launch of the PayTo initiative.
“A great appointment”
AirTree co-founder Daniel Petre told SmartCompany Husic “understands that through science and innovation, we can make Australia a more prosperous country”.
“This is a great appointment. Ed has been active in the innovation sector for years and brings intellect, experience and passion,” said Petre, who also says he is sure Husic will “bring to the fore policies that help drive more research, more innovation, more jobs and a brighter future for all of us”.
Recalling the first time he met Husic, angel investor Alan Jones describes him as someone who demonstrates humility and genuine care.
“It was at a tiny kickoff for a Hackathon event designed to come up with tech solutions to help refugees arriving in Australia get settled. It was the opposite of where you’d expect a politician to be — there were no big and important people in the room, it wasn’t in the middle of the city, it was in Bankstown,” he tells SmartCompany.
“There was just a bunch of hardworking people in the tech industry with good hearts wanting to do something great for their community and he not only attended the event, but he also didn’t take over. He didn’t have minders everywhere, he didn’t speak for 45 minutes about how important he was and how amazing his government was.
“He was very humble and self-effacing and was genuine in his interest and care for the people and what they were working on. He wasn’t just handed a shadow portfolio and forced to learn about it. He really did care about it and really wanted to be great in that role.”
Husic, Alan adds, has demonstrated similar care throughout his roles and has worked hard to represent the interests of the industry from the opposition as the shadow minister.
“He knows what Australia needs from him in this role and he has very strong, deep relationships with our industry after 10 years of learning from us. I could name any number of people who are as excited and pleased to see him appointed.”
Sam Pratt, CEO of Render, meanwhile, spoke of how bringing back together the portfolios of Industry and Science is a “welcome move” as it “acknowledges how essential both focus areas are to Australia’s long-term global competitiveness and prosperity”.
“Ed Husic continuing in innovation is a positive step in the right direction given his strong advocacy of the tech sector since taking shadow ministry reins last year. Scope of the Innovation and Science portfolio is further expanded given Prime Minister Albanese has not named a financial and digital economy minister to directly replace Jane Hume’s former remit.
“Minister Husic’s appointment will hopefully restore much-needed stability on the back of eight different ministers in nine years of Coalition government, in what is arguably the most impactful portfolio on the future of Australia’s economy,” Pratt said.
Science key to Australia’s economic future
Husic’s appointment as Industry and Science Minister was also welcomed by Australia’s leading scientists.
The president of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Chennupati Jagadish congratulated Husic, among other new ministers, and said the academy “looks forward to working with the newly elected Albanese government to assist in securing Australia’s future economic and social prosperity through a stronger focus on and investment in science”.
“As Australia looks for solutions to decarbonise our economy and transform traditional industries, science will play a vital role in developing the ideas, technologies, systems and processes needed,” Jagadish added.