Australian Prime Minister Press Conference – Brisbane

Prime Minister

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to a really important announcement for Queensland and for Australia. I welcome Prime Minister, Minister Husic and Ambassador Kennedy. Good governments focus on the issues of the day and the concerns of the day, but also make sure that they are looking to the future and delivering the outcomes that will create the jobs of the future. And you know, it’s a bit over 25 years since Queensland set out to be the smart state, and now today we continue to reap the rewards of those forward thinking decisions. We have world leading researchers in just about every field right around the world, and in this announcement today we bring back Jeremy and Terry, who both studied at UQ. We have a world leading renewable energy and jobs plan which is attracting the energy intensive industries of the future that want the certainty of 24/7 stored renewable energy. We have well established industries in vaccine development that will leverage off the power of quantum computing. This project ensures that Queensland will continue to be the smart state for another twenty-five years and beyond. In supporting this alongside the Albanese Government, we are doing what good Queensland governments and good Labor Governments have always done – use our ability to invest and our other powers to attract investment, that will attract other investment, that will create the jobs of the future, the good, high quality jobs of the future. It’s been fantastic to work together with the Prime Minister on this, and it’s my great pleasure to introduce him to you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well thanks very much, Steven. This is indeed an exciting day for Queensland and an exciting day for our nation. This is a quantum leap into the next generation of technology right here in Queensland. This technology will define the generations of our kids and grandkids, just like the smartphone or the iPhone did compared with the landline. That is the jump in technology that we are talking about here. A jump in technology that puts Australia and Queensland in particular at the forefront of economic growth, at the forefront of innovation, at the forefront of ensuring that we’re creating good, high wage jobs right here in Queensland. These Aussie geniuses who are with us today were taking this technology overseas to build. Well, we’re bringing it home. For too long we have spoken about how good Australia is at innovation. We speak about every solar panel in the world that has Australian IP attached to it. We speak about WiFi, we speak about the black box, we speak about so much innovation and breakthroughs in science, and I’m pleased that we’re joined by our chief scientist, Cathy Foley, here today, who played such a critical role in this as well in the assessment process. What this is doing is saying that we want our innovation and our smarts to deliver benefit for us here, and then of course, to transfer that to the world. We want more ideas that start in Australia to stay in Australia, and that is what we mean by a future made in Australia. High tech jobs, jobs in manufacturing, jobs in innovation, jobs that are created through science, making sure that we have a public sector contribution, in this case equity and loans from both the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government, meaning we have a stake in this business, a stake in the outcome, which will produce a return to taxpayers. But one that then accelerates private sector activity, and private sector capital, and private sector creation of jobs here. This is a game changer. We are putting Brisbane on the global tech powerhouse map – it is that simple. A joint investment that will secure PsiQuantum’s Asia Pacific headquarters here in Brisbane, and enshrine it as a cornerstone customer of Australia’s digital quantum and AI supply chains. This is a very big day, and I do want to congratulate all those who put in such an extraordinary effort to turn this idea into a concrete proposal, and then now turn it into something that will happen, and will happen right here. I’d ask Ed Husic to, I think it’s going to be next.

ED HUSIC, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE: Thanks Prime Minister and Premier, and also to the Deputy Premier as well, Ambassador Kennedy, and if I can say thank you to Jeremy and to Terry and the whole team at PsiQuantum for their faith in our nation, a faith that we all possess. Our future made in Australia agenda is about revitalising our manufacturing capabilities off the back of a strong technological base that will create a stronger economy and secure jobs into the future. This is a critical investment, a strategic investment in our tech capabilities that will help us in our advanced manufacturing ambitions. Australia is known for having one of the biggest quantum workforces in the planet, and Jeremy and Terry who are standing behind me, their work is probably amongst the most cited in quantum research in the world. They have led thinking, and we have had so many people that have wanted to be able to pursue their ambitions here and simply couldn’t. And that’s why in a lot of companies across the globe you’ll often find or hear an Australian accent. What we want to do is bring talent back. We want that talent to join with local quantum talent to be able to make the breakthrough that will go past the constraints of current classic computing. It can do a lot, and I know there’ll be a lot of you that think that AI and computers at the moment can achieve a lot, but they’re going to hit a ceiling, and quantum computing will break through that. Coming up with new ways to find new drugs, to help us in the transition to net zero, to be able to help us with autonomous systems that will be important longer term, particularly in terms of advanced manufacturing, improving quality of life. And what we want to do is have this investment where we see the Asia Pacific headquarters of PsiQuantum, located here in Queensland, opening up opportunity for Queenslanders, but also the rest of the ecosystem. All the quantum talent that’s in this country being able to work together and to use their know how to make new products, create new jobs, build a stronger economy, drive future productivity. This can be done in Australia by having faith in Australians, in their know how, and in their capability to get it done. That’s why today is a very important moment, as the Prime Minister has outlined, because it’s the type of investment and it’s the type of nation building investment, I daresay, that drives future opportunity and is critical to our long term success. And so we’re very grateful to PsiQuantum who reached out and said they want to come back home. They want to make an investment in their country that had given them so much opportunity, the research work that they started right here in Queensland, putting it to work to grow the prosperity for this state and for the entire nation, and to help us, because today is important from this perspective. We are sending a signal to the rest of the world that we want our nation to be a centre for quantum growth that attracts Australians back home, joins up with local talent and brings other talented people here to grow a much stronger future for us all. So thank you again to PsiQuantum, and if I may, I might invite the Ambassador to say a few words.

CAROLINE KENNEDY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO AUSTRALIA: Thank you, Minister. Congratulations, Prime Minister, Premier, Minister Husic, and PsiQuantum for this incredible announcement. This is also a great day for the US-Australia Alliance. The Prime Minister and President Biden called it an alliance of innovation when the Prime Minister was in Washington last fall, and that’s what we’re really seeing here. Geniuses from Australia came to the US, started this company, and now are coming back here to build its headquarters. So the US and Australia are partnering every day on doing things that are hard, on doing things that are important for the future, from advanced manufacturing to innovation tech. So I am so proud to be here to celebrate this important day with all of you, and especially PsiQuantum. Thanks.

CAMERON DICK, DEPUTY PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND, TREASURER & MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT: Thanks, Ambassador. I might just conclude the remarks by saying today is a momentous day for Queensland. I want to acknowledge the Prime Minister and Minister Husic, who I’ve worked closely with on this project. I want to thank them for their commitment and their vision and also for their belief in Queensland. I want to acknowledge the presence here today of Ambassador Kennedy. Ambassador Kennedy is a great friend of Queensland, and her presence here today signifies the importance of this project, a very significant project for our state and our nation. Because for Queensland, this is our moonshot for Queensland, this is our Project Apollo. As Project Apollo impacted on space travel and all the scientific and technological advancements that came from that that are still delivering generations later, so too will quantum computing have a transformational impact on information technology. This happens once in a generation, and Queensland wanted to be part of it. Quantum computing will transform medicine and manufacturing, it will transform finance and commerce, it will help with national defence and national security in particular, cyber security. In particular I want to acknowledge the brilliant minds behind this technology and the first fault tolerant quantum computer to be built in the world, which will be built in Queensland. I want to acknowledge Jeremy and Terry, there are kids studying in Queensland schools today, there are kids in primary school doing coding, which we embedded in the curriculum in Queensland, who can aspire to be like Terry and Jeremy. And they can aspire to work in an industry that will have high tech, high quality, high paying jobs, and they’ll be able to do it in their own home state. So this is a great day for our state. I’m excited about the future and what this great project will mean for our state and our nation.

JEREMY O’BRIEN, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO OF PSIQUANTUM: PM, Premier, Minister Husic, Treasurer, Ambassador Kennedy, thank you, it’s an honour to be amongst all of you here in Brisbane. I want to acknowledge that my co-founder, Professor Terry Rudolph, a fellow Australian, is also here today, along with a host of my Australian PsiQuantum colleagues. For me and Terry, it’s wonderful to be back home in Australia. I was born in Sydney, grew up in Perth, and spent much of my adult life in Brisbane. My journey in quantum computing began here in Australia almost thirty years ago, and took me from student to post-doc to visiting professor at the Universities of WA, New South Wales, Queensland and Sydney, with collaborations across the nation that continue to this day. Back when I got started Australia was the only place in the world that truly understood quantum computing’s potential, investing in some of the largest research and development efforts in the world. Over the years I spent countless days and nights in the lab with several of my colleagues who are here today thinking of these then hypothetical devices called quantum computers, and imagining the promise of what a large scale version could deliver. Theoretically, these machines could harness the very laws of nature and allow mastery of disciplines like medicine, advanced materials, cryptography. Starting in the nineties, Australia became the beating heart of the quantum movement. Since then our researchers have sat on every team from Queensland to Silicon Valley, scientists in Australia outpaced almost any rival, but it was still theory. That’s no longer the case. A quarter of a century later and after decades of foundational work and nearly a decade at PsiQuantum we are now on the brink of building and operating a utility scale quantum computer. Like other technologies that seemed otherworldly within living memory, impossible things like supersonic flight, robotics, semiconductors, and mapping the human genome, a utility scale fault tolerant quantum computer is now on the cusp of reality. These systems will allow us to simulate, calculate and understand the behaviour of materials, chemistry, physics and information at a level that no conventional computer will ever rival. Allowing critical industries at the heart of Australia’s economy to build into the future and become global leaders of industry once again. A utility scale quantum computer represents an opportunity to construct a new, practical foundation of computational infrastructure, and in so doing, ignite the next industrial revolution. A new global economy is emerging right here on Australian soil. Australia has an opportunity to reinvent itself. It will be a beacon for the most brilliant researchers and entrepreneurs in the world, and for those Australians already here at our universities. This computer will beckon them to build and design on the back of this platform amazing things like new life saving drugs, next generation electric batteries, next generation manufacturing. Our work together is just beginning. We’re working in the long shadow of dedicated Australians, men and women who have made it their life’s work to craft the impossible. At PsiQuantum we gladly take up their torch and are eager to build, nestled firmly within the Australian quantum ecosystem. I believe the term impossible will soon be banished from our field. We can see the path forward, a path towards cleaner skies and seas and lifesaving drugs developed faster than ever before. This Quantum Age is fast approaching, and it will be moulded by Australian hands. This could be one of the greatest gifts that our generation leaves to the next, and I look forward to the hard work we have ahead. And we look forward to doing that with all of you. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Okay, we’re happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: This will mean 400 jobs will be created, what proportion of those will be Australian jobs, and what proportion will be US workers that are brought over to Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: They’re 400 jobs here.

O’BRIEN: Yes, 400 jobs in Queensland.

JOURNALIST: Will they be Australian worker, or US workers?

JEREMY O’BRIEN: I don’t know if that’s been determined actually.

JOURNALIST: How closely is today’s investment tied to the expressions of interest process that was run last year? And did the other local quantum companies that responded to that EOI process, did they know that a billion dollars was potentially on the table?

MINISTER HUSIC: So we set up a very methodical process to do an assessment on who would be closest with scale maturity and capacity for spillover effects to build the world’s first fault tolerant computer. We handled that expression of interest and conducted that with over twenty domestic and international firms to see what was able to be done, what was capable being done there. We applied technical, legal, commercial and probity assessments as well to inform Cabinet processes on what would be required. And then, obviously, the Queensland Government had its processes as well. The combination of that Queensland and Australian investment that has been made has been designed, for the longer term good of the country, be able to bring us close to getting that fault tolerant computer, which, by most assessments, is 2026-2027. But this has been a determined, deliberate, detailed process of being able to make that assessment, and when I say determined, it’s with the view that Australia should be able to invest in frontier technology like this that will help supercharge industry and build a stronger economy longer term. The EOI itself, getting to the heart of your question, was a capability assessment that would then be used as part of those internal Cabinet processes.

JOURNALIST: I think it was mentioned that it’s nearly a billion dollars in equity and loans. What portion is equity and what portion is loans?

MINISTER HUSIC: So we’ve obviously released the global figures. A lot of the other details are commercial in confidence. That is a standard approach with a lot of the investments that get made by governments, not the least of which, for example, Moderna, which we supported when we’re in opposition, setting up their mRNA facility in Victoria.

JOURNALIST: And sorry, just quickly. Is the funding coming out of general government revenue, or is it the NRF?

HUSIC: Okay, so this is a strategic investment made quite separate to the NRF and the investments being made by the Australian and Queensland Government are being made in that way.

JOURNALIST: I need to know, what is the size, what is the utility scale, what does this computer look like in a room?

O’BRIEN: Yeah, so the way you should imagine it is, it’s a little bit like a high performance computer system or a small data centre type system. So it’s a warehouse scale building full of modules, much like the 19 inch racks that you’d see in a data center, you know, all road up and all network together electrically and optically. So it’s a big facility.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, I just wanted to get you on some comments that Michelle Rowland had made on misogynistic social media content like Andrew Tate, for example. Would the Government consider changing rules for social media companies to not show this kind of misogynistic content?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I haven’t seen Michelle Rowland’s comments, but Michelle Rowland is quite on top of these issues. She’s the Communications Minister, and certainly the issue of Andrew Tate is symptomatic of a problem that is a global problem that we are dealing with with content that promotes violence of different forms, in some cases, a misogynistic, violent approach towards women, but in other cases, as we’ve seen recently as well with the comments of The eSafety Commissioner, we need to be very conscious about what is online and about the impact that it is having. Now that is something that is a role for government, but it’s also a role for public discourse. I think we need to have a real discussion about the impact. And I know when I talk with parents, they’re very concerned about what their young sons and daughters are getting access to, about the impact that it has, including just making things which should never be normal seem normal, the use of algorithms that can push that sort of material towards people as well is of great concern. It’s something I know that Michelle is concerned about. It’s something that I spoke about in December 2019 in my second vision statement that I did as Leader of the Labor Party. I spoke about the role that social media, the role that this was having in society, and certainly it’s the debate that we have to have.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on National Cabinet, what do you hope to walk away with after the meeting on Wednesday in terms of actions or solutions that are not already in train?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don’t want to preempt the discussion that will take place tomorrow morning. My Government has a range of measures that we have put in place, including 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave, including increased support for women’s safety measures, including the changes that we’ve made to the parenting payments so that women can have a more secure income, don’t feel like they’re trapped financially in a relationship. The increased investment that we have in community service workers, as well as the increased investment in housing, particularly aimed at women and children escaping domestic violence. The State Governments, I’m sure Steven might want to say something on this as well, have a range of measures across the board. One of the things I know from speaking with State Premiers, that they want to have the discussion at National Cabinet is ways in which best practice can be replicated. So what are the lessons, for example, Victoria has already had a Royal Commission, and part of the agenda tomorrow will be the Premier of Victoria, Jacinta Allan, reporting on those issues as well and how that’s gone. In addition to that, Peter Malinauskas chairs, the CAF, the Federation body of all the Chiefs and they’re preparing a paper which will be presented tomorrow. So we need to acknowledge that this is an issue which is long term, does require attitudinal change, requires a whole range of measures. But we also need practical, immediate measures and responses as well, and I look forward to a constructive discussion tomorrow morning.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, will you apologise to Sarah Williams?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I with regard to Sarah, I wish her well. I wish her well. People can see the video for themselves. They can see what people said and what people didn’t say.

JOURNALIST: On your announcement today, your future made in Australia agenda is all about building sovereign capability. This is an investment in a foreign owned company. How does that go to building our economic sovereignty?

PRIME MINISTER: These guys over here are Australians, and the problem has been that Australians have come up with good ideas, and they’ve had to go offshore to get the capital and to get the support from governments to create the jobs here. We’re bringing them home. That’s what this is about. We’re bringing them home. Of course, we’ll continue to engage with our friends in the United States, as the Ambassador said. This is a part as well of the work that I’ve been doing with President Biden as well, which goes across the board of how we take advantage and work in a way which is in our mutual interest as well. But bringing it home here will put this city at the forefront of this revolutionary activity in the Asia Pacific region. This is such an exciting announcement, and we could have sat back and said, “yep, stay in Silicon Valley,” this is an equivalence of that. This will see this city at the forefront of what is an exciting change that will have a transformation. I got asked about jobs before. I’ll ask Ed to comment on this too. But this isn’t just about the 400 jobs that will be here in Brisbane, it’s about, I can’t think of anything that has been, and I have sat in various meetings for many hours discussing this proposal. This will have a greater multiplier impact on job creation here in Brisbane and Queensland than anything we could possibly have thought of. Anything at all. This will result in thousands and tens of thousands of jobs being created because of what it does in positioning this city. The Smart State statement was used by, of course, Steven Miles before referring to, I think it was Peter Beattie who came up with that. This truly puts Brisbane and Queensland on the map when it comes to these issues.

MINISTER HUSIC: Thanks PM, and I think that is an important point. I mean, what quantum computing will do is it will unleash phenomenal processing power to be able to sort some of those issues that you just can’t be able to sort through with current computing power. Even the strongest supercomputers that we’ve got in the country are not able to do it. As we identify new medicines, being able to also discover and optimise the way in which new chemistries work, say for example, in batteries, looking at the way we can improve the operation of hydrogen, energy generation, production, distribution. And so the reason I’m mentioning that is it’s not just the 400 jobs that get set up here, and it’s not just the broader jobs that get created in the ecosystem, but the support for industry in terms of other sectors being able to use that processing power to get the job done in their sectors. And so the flow on, the indirect jobs and the broader economic benefit is huge, and it has been identified using technology a lot smarter and better in a much more widespread way also will help improve what has been a challenge for Australia for some years in terms of productivity also. So for us being able to have that talent that’s already here, and I note you asked the question earlier about who will fill the jobs locally, again, I just want to reinforce the point that we have probably, we’re in the top five countries, I think, in terms of quantum workforce, the number of people that are coming out of our universities wanting to work. I said earlier that we wanted to send a signal about Australia becoming a centre for quantum growth and bringing all those Australians that are currently employed in the UK, the US and other parts of the world back home, and adding to that as well. And to be frank, too, if there are others that have got talent from other parts of the world that are attracted to working in a great place like Australia, where you’ve got Federal and State Governments that are signalling this is important to national economic growth, we want to bring that talent in too. It holds huge economic and industrial benefit, which we need to seize. And if I can just make this point as well, I mean, everyone heard there wasn’t a twang in that accent, that’s an Australian, that is as Australian an accent as you can get. When you’ve got Australians saying to governments, we are working on frontier technology, but we’d like to do this in Australia, it’d be a weird government to say, “nup, we’re not interested.” Now, we have had governments in the past that have knocked this back. I mean, Australia was the first country to develop a digital computer. We were amongst the top five back in the late 40s. John Howard’s Government knocked back the idea of having Intel locate chip manufacture here, it went off elsewhere into South East Asia, creating benefit there. And boy, didn’t that decision age well. And from our point of view, this is about seizing the opportunity of frontier technology now to drive future growth.

JOURNALIST: Minister to the heart of that question, PsiQuantum remains a US incorporated company, so isn’t there a risk then?

MINISTER HUSIC: So is News Corp.

JOURNALIST: Do the pros outweigh, I guess, the risk?

MINISTER HUSIC: No, I mean the reason I made that point, and I’m sure I’ll cop a bit for that later, but the reason I make that point is our ecosystem, our industrial and economic and financial landscape is made up of companies, large and small, local and overseas. It’s really important we are a destination for overseas firms. But this is a PsiQuantum, just to emphasise the point that the Prime Minister made, these are two individuals who co-founded in Jeremy and Terry, co-founded this they did the bulk of their development here in Australia and their research. And I think your postdoc, Jeremy, and undergrad in Terry, sorry to go through your bio in front of all these people, and then, because of the lack of support and interest, had to go overseas. Now they’re saying they want to come back and set up the Asia Pacific headquarters. Yes, PsiQuantum will still have a US presence, but they’ll also have an Australian one. They’ll also build up capability here, not just important from an economic one, but also from a strategic one as well, given that quantum technology does form part of pillar two in AUKUS as well. So having capable, talented people here in Australia to help breathe life into that element of AUKUS is also crucial for our long term interests as well.

PREMIER MILES: I was just going to add to what the PM and Minister Husic said. Queensland has a number of capabilities for which we are globally renowned, our renewable energy and our renewable energy plans, our research infrastructure and the collaboration between our universities, our critical minerals and our resource extraction capabilities. And this is all about adding an additional capability to our state that will be recognised globally and will draw investment to Queensland from right around the world. Minister Husic, mentioned chip manufacturing, and we have looked at that from every possible angle, because sovereign chip manufacturing would be a game changer for our country. But because other countries chip industries are so much more advanced, just getting the first of those factories up and running here would require an incredible subsidy, a massive subsidy, a subsidy of the scale of the investment that we are talking about on this project. But by being early, but by adopting early, moving early, we can ensure that that industry develops here and that we’re not trying 20 or 30 years later to play catch up. That’s what this kind of visionary investment allows us to do.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, for the past two yours Mr Miles has lobbied your Government to make changes to the Commonwealth criminal code to clarify that doctors can use telehealth to provide voluntary assisted dying services. Why have you refused to do so?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s a matter for the Attorney General and those processes. Mr Miles has, I’m sure, raised as Health Minister with his counterparts as well. But it’s a matter for the Attorney General. I know these issues have been discussed. These issues are not simple though. They need to be worked through and we need to make sure that there aren’t any unintended consequences behind that.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister Peter Dutton says that Andrew Giles and Clare O’Neil should be sacked because they promised release detainees would have ankle bracelets and be monitored. That hasn’t happened. Will they continue in their roles? And if they do, should the community have faith in them?

PRIME MINISTER: They will be continuing in their roles. And Peter Dutton, another day, another bit of negativity from Peter Dutton. I look forward to the day when Peter Dutton makes some policy announcements of some alternative vision for the country. We’re here today, we’re here today announcing a visionary project for the nation that stands in stark contrast to the lost opportunities of the previous decade, when Peter Dutton was a minister and presided over a debacle when it comes to the immigration system, a health system, where he tried to introduce a GP tax every time people wanted to go to the doctor, cuts to public hospitals, an attempt to put in a fee for the health system when people would turn up at a public hospital and as Defence Minister at debacle, where there were lots of announcements but no funding attached.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there have been calls for more funding in the Budget for support services and other initiatives for violence against women. Are you planning any budget measures to address the crisis?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Budget, of course, is now two weeks away from today on May 14, but we’ll be having a discussion as well tomorrow through the National Cabinet process. But already my Government has provided $2.3 billion of funding through our first two Budgets. We have, of course, the national plan, it’s a 10 year plan which began 2022 up to 2032. But we’ll look at measures as we always do. As I say, we had $2.3 billion of measures in our first two Budgets.

JOURNALIST: Will you be looking at some sort of register for high risk DV offenders?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ll look, of course, with State and Territory Governments tomorrow. They have primary responsibility, of course, for legal issues, for the justice system, for the court system, for community services. But the reason why we’re all coming together is because we’re united as I think the overwhelming majority of Australians are. We want to address what is a national crisis. When, on average, one woman loses their life every four days, then that represents a crisis that requires action. I was in Alice Springs a few hours ago, for Indigenous Australians, an Indigenous woman is 7.6 times more likely to lose their life at the hand of a partner or former partner than a non-Indigenous woman in this country. These statistics don’t tell the real story, because this is about individual women suffering in the worst cases, murder, but also domestic violence, coercive control. The kids who witness that behaviour can also be traumatised by that. And our society as a whole suffers from this scourge, and that’s why this isn’t something which, tragically, a decision like today, governments can make announcements and the money will flow. This is far more complex. It requires governments at all levels. It requires everyone in this room, everyone in the media, everyone in our entire society, to be involved here, because it requires a change in behaviour. Requires men to be prepared to call out bad behaviour when they see it. There are things that government can do, and government can lead on, and I know that the Premiers I’ve spoken to and I’ve spoken to all of them now, I think, across the country, are determined to make a difference, to look at the different jurisdictions and power and capacity that we have, but we’re also determined to ensure that there’s a focus on achieving those practical differences, those outcomes as we go forward. Thanks very much.

/Public Release. View in full here.