Last Tuesday, Google, one of the biggest tech giants across the globe, has announced that the company will be investing $740 million in Australia over the next five years, particularly promising to establish a research hub staffed by Australian researchers and engineers, increase its cloud computing capacity, and team up with government scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) to address certain issues like expanding the use of renewable energy. Following previous threats to leave the country earlier this year due to tightened government regulations, the move marks the company’s commitment to reconciliation and growth.
Google Australia Managing Director Mel Silva, who previously threatened to block Google’s search engine in Australia in early 2021, said the spending plan would bring significant technology resources and investment. Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, also expressed in an interview that the move could help lead the world’s next wave of innovation. Google’s plans include a partnership with the Sydney-based Macquarie University on quantum computing and expanded collaboration with Australia’s main government science agency on everything from natural hazard management to protection for the Great Barrier Reef. “We believe a strong digital future is one where everyone has access to technology and the skills to use it,” Mr. Pichai said. “Where the internet economy fulfills its immense potential,” he added.
Although the Australian government continues to show interest in imposing more regulations among tech companies, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has praised Google for making such a big bet on the country last Tuesday. He called the plan an “AU$1 billion vote of confidence” in Australia, and it would “bring more STEM jobs to our shores.”
“The company’s new program, the Digital Future Initiative, would create more than 6,000 jobs, triple what Google currently employs in Australia,” shared the Prime Minister. “We have to embrace and encourage and enable those seeking these new digital opportunities,” he added.
It could be remembered that during a parliamentary hearing held earlier this year, the proposed block was intended to evade new laws that forced Google and social media company Meta, formerly known as Facebook Inc, to pay news outlets for content posted on their websites. Regardless of the move boldly made by the tech giant, the law was approved, and Google thereafter recanted the statement. It instead established licensing deals with most of Australia’s mainstream media companies, heeding to the provisions required by the newly signed law.
Amid the controversy, the Australian federal government will review the effectiveness of the law in March 2022. The government also announced plans in holding internet companies accountable and legally responsible for cases involving defamation and misinformation that was made on their various platforms.
Although the AU$1 billion move sparks a go signal to countless projects in Australia, The Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology commented that the spending commitment made a “great headline” but “simply paying tax on Australian earnings would deliver far more money to Australia.”
“When big tech offers to put money into a nation, there are always strings attached,” said Centre director Peter Lewis.
Google currently pays less than 1% tax on annual earnings of about AU$5 billion made in Australia.
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