Wednesday, 30 March 2022 11:55

Part 2: More tech executive commentary on Australia's 2022-23 Federal Budget Featured

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Here's more reaction from a range of top tech companies on Australia's 2022-23 Federal Budget - so please read on!

We've already heard from the AIIA and Part 1 of a range of tech leaders regarding their thoughts on Australia's 2022-23 Federal Budget, and now we present additional commentary another 30 top tech tech executives in Australia, in first name alphabetical order;

1. Angeline Maronese, Managing Director for ANZ at Rackspace Technology:

IT skills shortage & jobs creation

“The tech sector is a critical pillar of the Australian economy and an important accelerator of jobs and growth. Digital technologies are an essential part of the value chain and operations of most businesses in the economy. While the government’s planned tax deduction off every $100 spent on cloud computing and new technologies training may be an incentive to those looking to upskill, what will it really achieve? $100 does not make a cybersecurity expert. This does not address the root issue of the skills shortage – for example, talent. Australia lacks a strong pipeline of talent and university graduates in the sector.”

“This budget doesn’t take into account the limited pool of existing talent to implement and capitalise on new emerging technologies. We’re seeing 50% of international students graduating from IT courses in Australia leave our shores after graduation; this is the highest rate of abandonment among developing countries.”

“We desperately need to support businesses by bolstering their tech capacities to accelerate the momentum brought about by the pandemic, such as in industries like manufacturing that were previously in decline but are now experiencing a huge surge in demand.

“There is a window of opportunity for Australia to pivot to next-generation industries and a knowledge economy, and now is the time to act. We don’t see the urgent need for a fundamental pivot in the economy reflected in this budget.”

2. Ashik Ahmed, CEO of Deputy 

"The last year has been uniquely tough on Australia's shift workers. Nurses and train drivers were on strike for better pay, hospitality venues struggled to stay open, aged care workers suffered burnout and those in the arts and events industries were further hit by the Omicron wave. The Federal Budget is an important moment to address challenges facing Australians each year and the biggest challenge affecting many workers to date is the unrelenting Covid-19 pandemic and its long term consequences.

"This has all been set against the backdrop of inflation and increased cost of living which rose by 4.25%. Despite this, it is disappointing to see that wages are not predicted to grow any time soon. In fact, wages will only be just higher than inflation in the next couple of years, meaning cost of living pressures are unlikely to ease in the near future. Despite the government rolling out some initiatives to support small businesses and tax-payers, we have a long way to go,"

"Positively, the government’s promise to commit $1 billion to the Technology Investment Boost is a step in the right direction for small businesses, which have proven to be a lifeline for the economy while borders were closed. The pandemic has undoubtedly sped up the digital shift and this investment will prevent these important businesses from being left behind."

3. Ashley Diffey, Head of APAC and Japan, Ping Identity:

"The federal government’s investment in cybersecurity in this budget should be applauded and supports the ongoing need to educate organisations about their risk. It will also support the ongoing requirement to generate cybersecurity awareness among both employees and management teams for securing their digital businesses. Today, every business is a digital business. With heightened risk on Australia’s critical infrastructure resulting from the unpredictable global political environment, strong identity security is more important than ever.

"Recently, CrowdStrike, Cloudflare and ourselves here at Ping Identity announced a new Critical Infrastructure Defense Project over in the US to provide cybersecurity services to those industries most vulnerable during this time of heightened risk. The project aims to enhance defences against risk and in collaboration with partners in the public sector, will offer businesses a roadmap that enterprises in any sector can use to implement step-by-step security measures to defend themselves from malicious actors.

"This collaboration between government, the private sector and cybersecurity specialists is ultimately what is required here in Australia to ensure that citizens and customers interact confidently with digital services and that businesses have access to leading solutions and world-class expertise to protect their enterprises, employees and associated supply chains."

4. Ben Allard, Vice President A/NZ and APAC at Apptio:

"This year’s budget takes important steps in protecting Australia through a $9.9bn boost to cyber capabilities, while progressing previous commitments to the Digital Economy Strategy through a $130m bump to the previously allotted $1bn, and digital skilling with a $1bn technology investment boost for small businesses combined with tax incentives to train workers.

"What is unclear at this stage, however, is how plans to commercialise new technology through increased local manufacturing will apply to technology-centric businesses, and what incentives there are to keep entrepreneurs in Australia rather than losing them to international markets. Similarly, the budget failed to address how companies outside small businesses can foster digital talent to plug the skilled labour shortage Australia continues to experience.

"Crucially, as the Government’s budget makes its way into agencies, businesses and the community, funding models and the policies that surround them must no longer hold back the potential impact of the investments. If we want to become a top digital economy by 2030, we simply must stop sandbagging our own efforts by evolving beyond the waterfall processes that have historically seen substantial funds lost in process and red tape, and caused tremendous delays in the delivery of digital projects and services to Australians."

5. Brad Drysdale, Field Chief Technology Officer – APAC, Kong:

"In 2022, digital transformation is no longer a theoretical concept – it’s in full swing across the country’s businesses and government sectors, pushing up the demand for quality, rapid innovation and skilled people to fuel it. This budget represents a positive step forward in encouraging the deployment of technologies such as cloud and AI but those enterprises that focus on transforming their corporate cultures, as well as their systems and processes, will be best placed to reap maximum benefit from the time and resources they invest in their efforts to emerge stronger from the recent period of turbulence.

"At the same time, the budget investment in supporting STEM development skills will go some way in boosting the nation’s pool of digital talent as well as the reducing the existence of siloed organisations and corporate cultures that may have traditionally been resistant to change. Ultimately, successful digital transformation takes a whole lot of doing.

"For it to result in engrained changes across the enterprise, rather than a mere process overhaul, wholesale cultural change is necessary. Not just in the IT department, where it can be relatively straightforward to effect, but across all operations functions as well. The outcomes look bright. Digital government, digital healthcare, digital learning, digital security and defence and better connected, more customer oriented businesses, organisations and institutions. The time is ripe to get onboard to learn, upskill, modernise, digitise and help Australia lead the way."

6. Bruce Macfarlane, CEO and Director, Energy Action 

On Net Zero:

“The federal government is playing an important role in providing a policy framework and industry guidance around emissions reduction, both of which will be key drivers for companies striving to achieve Net Zero – and tonight’s announcement that Australia is on track to exceed our 2030 target reiterates this progress and commitment.

"However – it’s not enough.

"Energy Action’s research shows that only 20% of businesses have set a Net Zero goal. And of those businesses that have set a goal, only 20% have actually started taking steps to achieve it.

"Ultimately, businesses incur a cost to achieve Net Zero, and need a way to recover this cost without passing it onto their customers. Unless the government incentivises or mandates businesses on the path to Net Zero – similar to the incentives and standards announced by the UK Government in April 2021 – the status quo will continue.”

7. Budd Ilic, ANZ regional Director – Government, Zscaler:

"The Australian government’s 2022-23 Federal Budget commitment of $9.9B towards cybersecurity and intelligence highlights the current geopolitical situation and the importance of cybersecurity in ensuring the security of Australians and our assets. Cyber attacks on government and critical infrastructure particularly during a time of armed conflict and even if on the other side of the world necessitates that the Australian government commits a substantial budget towards cybersecurity in parallel to the budget it commits towards defence.

"A large proportion of the funding this budget is for the ASD and towards offensive cyber capabilities. However, there has been a minimal commitment of $30.2M towards cyber hubs. While the Australian Signals Directorate has stopped certifying secure internet gateway (SIG) services, cyber hubs are supposed to replace and improve on the SIG capabilities by "strengthening cyber monitoring, detection and response capability across government". If Australia is to achieve its ambition of being in the top ten of data and digital economies globally by 2030 this requires moving away from the traditional security perimeter delivered by SIGs moving to a Zero Trust architecture.

"The Australian Government should be following the lead of the US and UK governments and their adoption of Zero Trust architecture. For example, the US government and President Biden have issued an Executive Order to improve their cybersecurity through a Zero Trust architecture.

"The Executive order states 'The Federal Government must adopt security best practices; advance toward Zero Trust Architecture; accelerate movement to secure cloud services, including Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS); centralise and streamline access to cybersecurity data to drive analytics for identifying and managing cybersecurity risks; and invest in both technology and personnel to match these modernisation goals.' 

"The Australia federal government’s cybersecurity strategy really needs to incorporate a Zero Trust architecture. Some the billions of dollars committed to cybersecurity should also be directed towards incorporating Zero Trust in order for the country not to fall behind as a digital economy leader and to support the ongoing development of local cyber skills."

8. Christian Lucarelli, Vice President Sales – APAC, Nintex

"The new federal budget provides great opportunity for small businesses to invest in and—more importantly—deploy digital strategy and technology. The tax offsets allow businesses to invest in innovation while also aiding the federal government’s strategy for digital transformation and a digital economy.

"What balances the push for digital technology and strategy in the budget is the government’s additional tax offset for SMB organisations that invest in training and certification of staff. For the SMB segment, the budget provides a great blend of strategy, implementation and sustained training/skills benefits for our economy."

9. Crispin Kerr, Vice President, ANZ Proofpoint:

“The current conflict in the Ukraine has heightened how cyberattacks have been brought forward as a key tactic of war. It is encouraging to see the federal government taking the imminent threat of cyberattacks against Australia’s critical infrastructure seriously now that the battle lines are so clearly drawn.

"The $9.9 billion investment the Federal government has announced it will budget for cybersecurity intelligence serves as an important reminder that Australian businesses too, must step up their cybersecurity defences in an increasingly volatile climate where cyber resilience is quickly becoming an organisation’s greatest asset.

"As we continue to see state-sponsored threat actors and cybercriminal gangs wreak havoc on governments and private enterprises, the risk to Australia’s critical infrastructure and services remains high. A significant cyberattack on critical sectors like healthcare, utilities, education and transport is no longer a question of if, but when.

"No organisation is immune to attack, with high-profile cyber breaches and attacks continuing to prove this sentiment. In the hybrid working world especially, organisations must hone their defences and ensure enhancing their security posture remains a critical business focus.

"Creating a security-conscious culture and adopting best practice in cybersecurity awareness training – an area where our research shows Australia is falling behind its global counterparts, is essential to maintaining cyber resilience. As the potential attack surface broadens, risks inevitably also increase – from phishing and business email compromise attacks (BEC), to the large-scale ransomware and DDoS attacks we continue to see dominate the headlines. For organisations of all sizes and sectors, adopting a people-centric approach and leveraging technology will see Australian companies best-placed to stay alert and protected in the digital future.

"We welcome the government’s investment and encourage greater collaboration between the public and private sectors to share threat intelligence, technology and resources. The investment serves as an urgent call to action for Australian businesses to get serious about cybersecurity. Those that have thus far paid lip service to cybersecurity are running out of time to take action as the frequency, sophistication and impact of digital attacks continues to escalate.”

10. Damir Cuca, CEO and Founder of Basiq:

On tech skills shortage:

"We're thrilled to see the tech talent shortage as a political focus at the moment. While the investment at an education level for those entering the workforce is a great starting point - skilled migration and attracting best-in-class talent from overseas is just as essential to deliver the staff that businesses need today," said Damir Cuca, CEO and Founder of Basiq.

"We also need to ensure that startups can attract and retain great talent to foster innovation and new ideas. At Basiq, we are competing with local tech giants, like Atlassian and Canva, as well as global leaders for exceptional talent, which is becoming increasingly tricky as pay packages skyrocket and the smaller players are outbid."

11. David Maunsell, Chief Executive Officer of Haventec:

Cybersecurity: SMEs

“It’s encouraging to see the focus of the 2022-23 Australian Federal Budget include both technology boosts and digital strategies, especially after a period where we’ve seen a huge reliance on technology accelerated by the pandemic.”

“For Aussie businesses, the changes to government procurement contracts which will both encourage investment in local technology innovation as well as help level the playing field for small and medium contractors to win infrastructure, defence, and security projects, is a welcome announcement.

“Importantly, the Technology Investment Boost is supporting businesses to go digital and uplifting their capability. From the perspective of an Aussie digital privacy business, the investment will open the door to Australian organisations looking for innovative partners to securely digitise their operations.

“Whilst this funding is welcomed, highlighting the need for better accessibility in digital services would have reinforced the previous positioning with investment to the eSafety Commission, and the regulatory power handed to the Australian Communications and Media Authority which was a move towards greater digital inclusion. We run the risk of leaving parts of the population behind if accessibility is not taken into account when organisations are investing in digital services.”

12. Graeme Pyper, Director of APAC Channels at BlackBerry

On national cyber capability: 

“BlackBerry applauds Australia’s 10 year, $9.9 billion investment in offensive and defensive cyber capabilities, including the new cyber and foreign intelligence facility in Canberra. In the 21st century, national cybersecurity must be the fourth pillar of defence alongside air, land, and sea – as well as critical emergency management voice and messaging communications.

"Recent geopolitical developments have sharpened the focus on measures necessary to protect Australian critical infrastructure from potential cybersecurity threats. The public relies on critical infrastructure for utilities such as power, gas, water, and waste treatment to operate without interruption.

"For this reason, critical infrastructure assets carry significant real-world risks and are high-impact, lucrative targets for ransom (BlackBerry 2022 Threat Report) Australian business and IT leaders recognise the need to adopt a prevention-first, proactive security posture across operational technology (OT) and IT environments as the threat landscape continues to evolve.

"To extend protections to offline devices running legacy operating systems, a ‘prevention-first’ approach is a necessity – both in terms of ‘lightweight’ AI/ML driven cybersecurity solutions that are installed on the endpoints themselves; and cybersecurity scanning tools to detect vulnerabilities during software design and development.

"Governments across the world have taken proactive steps to bolster national security and protect their critical assets. In July 2021, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) issued a joint cyber advisory alerting organisations to the heightened risk of sophisticated ransomware attacks targeting critical assets. In March 2022 in the U.S., the Biden administration published a Fact Sheet calling on enterprises to take urgent steps to bolster their cybersecurity protections.

BlackBerry supports legislation that would ensure secure, ongoing asset protection for Australia. Significant reform such as the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Act 2021, the updated Ransomware Action Plan, and the newly-announced REDSPICE initiative are highly encouraging steps to strengthen national security and cyber resilience.

On skills shortage:

“BlackBerry applauds the Australian Government’s increased investment in critical skills development, including cybersecurity. It’s promising to see the creation of 1,900 critical jobs, such as data analysts, computer programmers and software engineers, under the REDSPICE initiative within the ASD. Moreover, as the breadth of malicious cyber activity increases, public and private sectors must work together to rapidly up-skill the Australian workforce – and invest in complementary automation, including AI/ML-driven security technologies, to help security professionals protect the government and other enterprises.

"Indeed, malicious cyber actors are increasingly employing ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) and malware-as-a-service (MaaS) tools to execute high-impact attacks. While every organisation runs the risk of a cybersecurity breach and/or ransomware attack, SMEs are facing upwards of 11 to 13 cyberattacks per device per day – a much higher rate than larger enterprises (BlackBerry 2022 Threat Report).

BlackBerry supports the $1B Technology Investment Boost incentivising small businesses to enhance their digital fluency and invest in cyber security systems and skills. In addition, augmenting in-house teams with external on-demand experts to address the challenge of cyber threat actors is essential. Threat intelligence experts, in combination with a security posture that leverages predictive AI-modelling, will significantly increase Australia’s cybersecurity capabilities.”

On secure communications/ CEM:

“Australia must be prepared for natural disasters with state-of-the art Critical Event Management (CEM) technology. The 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review outlines the effects of several natural disasters and that ‘access to reliable telecommunications services has never before been more important to regional, rural and remote Australians.’

"BlackBerry welcomes the Government’s commitment to enhancing connectivity in regional areas with a further $1.3 billion investment, including to improve the resilience of telecommunications infrastructure against natural disasters. Improved access to reliable communications is a step in the right direction, but not sufficient. In light of the recent devastating floods causing a complete breakdown in communication infrastructure in some areas, Australia must plan pre-emptively to strengthen the nation’s incident response.

"Cutting-edge CEM technology adoption, that combines secure emergency notification systems with incident response capabilities, will augment current disaster response initiatives and technologies and improve organisational resilience across the public and private sectors.

"The impact of natural disasters on communications infrastructure threatens Australia’s public safety. This underscores the need to prioritise a national, coordinated approach to secure communication and real-time critical event management.”

13. Jamie MacLennan, Senior Vice President and Managing Director Asia-Pacific at LifeWorks

On Mental Health:

“While it is pleasing that the government has highlighted mental health support in this budget, it does not reflect the required level of support needed nor an appropriate application of funds. Before the pandemic, mental health services were woefully underrepresented, and we need to ensure that we don’t lose the recognition and momentum gained over the last two years.

“Further, while the government articulates a ‘stepped care’ model for mental health, funding is disproportionately weighted to severe mental health issues. While it is imperative that we properly fund people in this category, the government should also allocate funding to preventative mental health treatment and better leverage technology.

“As an example, a broader perspective would recognise the need to have greater investment for Australians already in the workforce, particularly those with children, to ensure they don’t buckle under the mounting pressures in a post-COVID economy.”

14. Jonathan Perumal, Country Manager, ANZ, at Safeguard Global 

On skills shortage:

“We all know that the Australian economy’s most precious resource is our people. Equally, the most valuable assets in Australian companies are their people. Growth, innovation, and success rests in the ability to bring the best talent onboard – and right now, this is something Australian organisations are struggling with. While the skills shortage pre-dates the pandemic, the current environment has exacerbated this challenge across many key industries.

"It’s pleasing to see the government prioritise skills reform in this year’s budget, including an allocation of $3.7 billion towards a new National Skills Agreement for jobs of the future and $500 million in tax relief for small businesses investing in upskilling their employees. However, it will take time for the industries that are most under pressure to feel the benefits of this funding. And in the interim, Australian organisations are still frantically seeking new ways to recruit the skilled workers they need.

"Accessing skills in international markets will not only be a key survival mechanism for Aussie businesses looking to plug their talent gaps – it will also create a foundation for them to enter new markets by building a global team with employees in key locations.

"The Australian Industry Group (AIG) found that 73 per cent of Australian CEOs expect to have difficulty finding and retaining skilled labour in 2022. Companies that are open to hiring globally in compliant and efficient ways, and that adapt to the new expectations of a distributed workforce, will be well-positioned to continue their growth and resilience to the talent shortage. When the government’s new skills initiatives are fully up and running, they will have stronger and more profitable companies that can hire Aussies and provide exciting opportunities to the workforce.”

15. Lachlan Feeney, Founder and Executive Director at blockchain consultancy Labrys:

On blockchain education:

"Behind mainstream adoption of NFTs and cryptocurrencies, blockchain is evolving from a technology of theoretical promise to a technology of genuine, practical significance. However the industry is desperately short of talent, and the Federal Budget did little to alleviate that. Demand for our expertise is at an all time high - and growing - but the supply of talent is limited. There is no formal education stream for blockchain technology. The only way for Aussies to develop the skills required to join such an important industry is by teaching themselves through online tutorials.

"Relying on self-teaching will be little more than a drip in the ocean. Educators and policymakers have a duty to teach the skills and subjects that reflect the world of work young Australians are being prepared for. For blockchain, an industry that must now be considered strategically critical long-term, we’re failing. There have been many positive murmerings based on the Digital Services Act, but the Budget missed an opportunity to create a formal education stream and in doing so the long-term foundation that the industry is crying out for. Over the coming years in the blockchain industry, nations will establish advantages and hierarchies that will last for decades. If we’re bold and decisive, and think about immediate opportunities and long-term strategies, Australia could be at the head of the industry globally.”

On the Digital Services Act:

“We’ve reached the point where talk must be replaced by action. There has been a lot of promising language over the last six months, but it’s important to pick up the pace. Our industry is evolving at an incredible pace, so it’s no exaggeration to say that every week matters. There’s a lot to be excited about in the Digital Services Act (DSA), but only if the policies are acted upon. The Government has stated that the industry will be a ‘top priority’ should it win another term, but did it let the open goal of a Federal Budget go begging?”

On tech skills shortages:

"Simply reopening international borders and expecting skilled workers to come flocking into Australia is naive; the Government must make skilled technology visas more accessible, affordable and appealing. The Federal Budget provided an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to overcoming the technology skills shortages, but it didn’t go far enough. At Labrys, we’ve felt the burden of skills shortages, and while long-term targets and commitments are a start, we were eagerly awaiting a more proactive policy designed to have an immediate impact. For example, fast-tracking processing times, reducing application fees and providing more incentives for start-ups to sponsor skilled workers from outside Australia would’ve been an easy win and a fast way to kick-start the economy.”

16. Leigh Travers, CEO of Binance Australia:

Cryptocurrencies

“With the transition to the digital economy faster than many predicted, the Federal Budget is well-positioned to drive Australia's growth as a top 10 digital economy.”

“Small businesses in Australia now have the strongest incentives to make the required investments in their digital future. As an industry, it is critical for us to ramp up our investment in technology and education for our people to ensure we can improve our products and organisation over the coming years.”

“From a blockchain industry perspective it would have been a bonus to see crypto and blockchain technology make a specific appearance, the industry is well placed to benefit from incentives towards cybersecurity, cloud computing, and hardware supporting emerging technologies.”

17. Marcus McNamara, Head of APAC, Sana Commerce

"It’s great to see the focus on connecting regional areas as this will help businesses based in those areas to make use of the funding and initiatives for driving Australia’s digital economy strategy. At the same time, allowing businesses to claim deductions against revenue generating assets will allow companies to invest in technologies such as, e-commerce as an integral and rapidly growing sector for growth and investment.

"The timing for this is perfect for manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors who have typically been slower to adopt technology and digitise their business practices. They’ll now be able to take the plunge and invest in technologies to emerge stronger from the turbulent pressures of the past couple of years and take advantage of the increased adaptability, productivity and encourage innovation that these technologies will deliver.

"We’re further encouraged by a focus on STEM development which can only set the country up for additional innovation. This will help set us apart globally and put Australian businesses, services and products in high demand as leading global leaders."

18. Mark Simari, Non-Executive Chairman of Careteq Limited

“We are pleased and welcome the increase in NDIS funding over the forward estimates given the multiple challenges facing the disability and aged care sector. This additional funding will have a significant impact on the level of care provided and facilitate the emerging adoption of Assistive Living Technologies for those who need it most.

"Separately, the small business tax deduction will make a positive, although marginal, impact on our business.”

19. Michael Boyle, Managing Director, HP Australia and New Zealand

“As Australia emerges from the pandemic with a comparatively strong economy and low unemployment, corporate Australia still faces the challenges brought on by the nationwide skills shortages that continue to plague all industries, and in particular, the technology sector.

"Despite considerable investment from the government on skilling young Australians through the expansion of the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencement and additional funding for trades, the tech sector continues to be held back by the lack of skilled professionals ready to unlock the productivity of the nation through innovative technologies.

"We welcome the government’s continued investment in upskilling Australians – particularly women – in the technology sector, but it’s imperative that action doesn’t stop here. Having access to an ongoing pipeline of talent will ensure the tech sector, and every industry that it touches, has the ability to increase its productivity for the long term. Dedicated investment for STEM students, with a strong focus on women and girls, would help mitigate future talent shortages and pave the way for much needed diversity within the industry. Should we fail to make a sustained, prioritised investment, Australian businesses will face an unsustainable ‘talent war’ and see their productivity clipped.”

20. Michael Evans, vice president and country manager ANZ at Pegasystems

“As we pivot to post-pandemic economic recovery, It has never been more important to continue to modernise and transform Australia’s digital economy, including the critical services that government delivers to citizens. This involves simplifying the often complex legislation governments administer, into easier to use, more accessible and more connected services designed for people and businesses. This can only be achieved by investing in capabilities that reduce delivery friction, improve agility, and personalise the experience for companies and citizens….ultimately generating greater value and trust within the community.

"We’re already participating in assisting the federal government on its transformation journey with our powerful AI-powered, low-code platform; and we’re excited to contribute through the further investments outlined in the budget. The aim of these announcements will no doubt drive the transformation and reimagination of government service delivery, deliver real outcomes for Australians, and democratise technology to support the digital roles of the future.”

21. Nick Lennon, Vice President, APAC, Mimecast

On national cyber capability: 

“The announcement in the federal budget of the Resilience, Effects, Defence, Space, Intelligence, Cyber and Enablers (REDSPICE) package shows that the government is sharpening its cyber focus and recognising that current geopolitical instability is having a direct cyber impact on private as well as public sector interests.

"At the same time, the announcement of the Technology Investment Boost gives SMBs an incentive to strengthen their digital capability and technology stack.

"Even so, there is still work to be done when it comes to giving businesses the right cybersecurity backing and support, especially considering that 77% of Australian companies faced a ransomware attack last year and a huge majority of businesses simply do not have the time or resources to implement and effectively manage adequate cybersecurity infrastructure.

"In the past year, Mimecast has often suggested having nationally co-ordinated cyber resilience for businesses – similar to a scheme like Medicare. Our view is that providing a nationally rolled-out, government subsidised cybersecurity care and resilience package for SMBs, in conjunction with private sector and tertiary institutions, is absolutely critical to getting the nation’s cyber settings right.

"In addition to hardening the security posture of Australian businesses by providing easy and affordable access to cyber care for SMBs, such a scheme will provide skilled job creation and a path to employment for tertiary cybersecurity students.

"As a nation we are starting to move towards the mentality of building a fence at the top of a cliff in terms of protection from malicious activity, rather than just having an ambulance waiting at the bottom to handle the fallout and repair after a successful attack. But the shift to this mindset, and resulting action, needs to speed up.

"This is evidenced by recent calls from the Australian Cyber Security Centre for Australian organisations to urgently adopt an enhanced cybersecurity posture.

"I sincerely hope the initiatives announced in this federal budget get us further down the path towards being a cyber resilient nation, rather than one riddled with weak links in the chain, especially when it comes to SMBs.”

22. Pieter Danhieux, Co-Founder and CEO, Secure Code Warrior

"The significant increase in funding for cybersecurity initiatives is a welcome step in the right direction for Australia's cyber defense capabilities. As it stands, according to the National Cyber Security Index (NCSI), Australia is currently ranked 37 in terms of our government-implemented cybersecurity capacities. This lags behind some developing nations, as well as the pace of our own digital development.

"This funding concentrates on the defense of critical infrastructure, cyber conflict and nation-state attacks, in addition to our security intelligence and cyber offense abilities, all of which are vitally important. It is also brilliant to see special consideration for investing in home-grown cybersecurity solutions; these, along with organisations like the ACSC and AustCyber, show that our cyber capabilities can compete with the best in the world when well-funded.

"Still, we face our own local cybersecurity skills shortage, so funding the foundations and shining more light on cybersecurity as an attractive industry is a win-win, as is nurturing the talent that allows us to compete with other tech companies on the world stage. Investment in diversity-led STEM educational paths, encouraging a more inclusive and less intimidating tech industry is a must, as is a focus on practical skill development from the ground up, including at the software development level to ensure code-level vulnerabilities aren't creating an even greater opportunity for cyberattacks.

"It is my hope that we recognise multiple paths of defense, and help every organisation deliver and maintain robust security programs."

23. Pieter DeGunst, CEO, Tecala

"It’s pleasing to see the government support Australian SMEs to invest in cyber security technology. It’s an underfunded area and budget constraints is a key issue that is holding back cyber preparedness for many businesses. In addition, in the midst of the biggest tech resource crunch in our history, the investment into STEM development is a welcome development."

24. Dr Rajen Manicka, CEO of Holista Colltech

“We welcome the 120% tax deduction allowance for small business as well as the expansion of the patent box scheme to include agricultural technology. Holista operates an ovine collagen facility in the town of Collie in Western Australia and we have a patented process to extract cosmetic and medical-grade collagen from sheep skin. These initiatives in the federal budget will be useful to us in some instances, but I feel it doesn’t go far enough as it won’t change any of our business investment or R&D decisions.

"What would be more useful is if the budget also expanded on the R&D grant program to include improvements on existing innovations. I think that will make more of an impact on our industry.”

25. Rob Hango-Zada Co-Founder and CO-CEO of Shippit

On temporary cuts to fuel excise:

“When fuel prices surge, carriers absorb the increased cost in the short-term. Ultimately, however, these costs hit retailers’ bottom lines. In the end they’re faced with a lose-lose decision to either absorb the costs themselves or pass them on to their customers, placing more pressure on an already critical cost-of-living-crisis. We hope this short-term measure doesn’t come at the expense of a longer-term strategy.”

On tech skills shortages:

"Barely a day goes by without businesses, industries and policy makers drawing attention to the skills deficit in the technology industry. Forecasts suggest Australia needs anywhere from a few hundred thousand to millions of new or re-skilled technology workers. Start-ups like Shippit have bold plans to create jobs, revolutionise industries in need of it and contribute to a thriving economy, but skilled worker shortages challenge our ability to do so.

“We must make essential tech skills accessible, desirable and attainable at a grassroots level, from high school to university. There must be clear and attractive pathways into the industry. Just as vocational apprenticeships provide practical skills and industry exposure in crucial industries like construction, hospitality and hair and beauty, we’d love to see something similar in the technology sector. That will have longer-term benefits, but in the short-term, we must be able to attract talent too.

“Making technology visas more accessible, reducing the processing time and cost would increase the flow of skilled workers at a crucial time. We would like to see the government nurturing the start-up ecosystem in Australia and looking at the taxation impact of employee share schemes, which in turn exacerbates the tech talent shortage. Both political parties have made bold pledges in recent weeks, but whoever forms the next Government must demonstrate their commitment to the technology industry - and Australia’s economic prosperity - is real.”

26. Raymond Maisano, Head of Australia and New Zealand at Cloudflare

Cybersecurity/Skills Shortage

"On the surface, the Federal Budget has Australia's long term and future cyber security needs covered. However it has once again failed to deliver mid-term support.

“Australia is already being hit by a relatively larger share of cyber attacks despite being only a small portion of the world’s population. Now, the government’s cybersecurity experts are urging organisations to strengthen their security posture amidst concerns the fallout of the Ukraine-Russia conflict will pose further cyber risk.

“Where we have previously criticised the government for sending a message that cybersecurity is an industry problem for privately-owned businesses to solve, it's encouraging to see the government injecting funds to support small businesses adopting cyber security technologies.

“However, the Federal Budget has missed out on addressing the growing and critical shortage of cybersecurity talent in Australia.

“The investments into STEM education, particularly for women, are of great assistance, but provide little to no short or mid-term impact. It would be great to see the government create support for internship programs to develop the essential, real-world experience cybersecurity workers need to succeed in the industry. Cloudflare welcomes the government to collaborate on what these programs could look like, and would happily put its hand up to welcome interns into its Australian offices.”

27. Rob le Busque, Regional Vice President, Asia Pacific, Verizon Business 

On national cyber capability and critical infrastructure: 

“We are heartened to see the government continue its investment in strengthening Australia’s cyber defence and the digital economy, given the long-tail effects from the global pandemic and political challenges in Europe. To continue to strengthen Australia’s cybersecurity resiliency, it is important to continue to enact policies that permit cross-border data flows without barriers. Timely access to threat intelligence amongst security professionals is vital in managing risk and developing mitigation strategies.

"In addition, as cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure are on the rise, it is critical for the government to continue to address the ongoing skills shortage in cybersecurity to address the heightened threat. This will be critical as the government implements the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act (SoCI Act) rules including setting out new supplier obligations and government rights.

"Finally, we welcome the announcement that the government will establish a national Cyber and Critical Technology Intelligence Centre. Cyber resilience and industry building are the cornerstones of a robust and resilient future, and Australia’s alliance with the United States is founded on decades of shared economic technology leadership. As one of the most important cyber security markets for Verizon, Australia hosts one of our nine specialised cyber detection and response centres. This centre is pivotal in working with international and local intelligence organisations to identify and quantify cyber threats. We believe shared information on cyber risks is imperative for building better resilience and economic robustness for the future.”

28. Sash Vasilevski, Principal, Security Centric

"The Federal Government has discussed the increasing threat posed to Australian business and now recognises that this extends to the SME market. This is an important step towards protecting Australians from cybercrime given the latest Annual Cyber Threat report from the ACSC indicated that losses related to cybercrime had increased for small businesses compared to the previous year, and that medium businesses had the highest average loss per cybercrime report.

"With competing priorities for budgets, SMEs will appreciate the additional purchasing power made available by the budget to provide visibility and risk reduction of the cyber threat."

29. Tom Karemacher, Vice President of APAC, Procore

On skills shortages/infrastructure:

“It's great to see the government hit a new record of over $120 billion in overall spending on new and existing infrastructure projects. It comes at a time where investment and optimism is needed in construction, following the hit the industry took during extended pandemic lockdowns, compounded by ongoing skills shortages and increased materials costs. The government plays a significant role in supporting and stimulating the industry, so it's encouraging to see these initiatives, even though it may take time to feel the benefits.”

“In February 2022, YouGov surveyed 314 Australian construction leaders on behalf of Procore. Around a third (32%) said the construction industry is suffering from a 'brain drain', and it is hard to compete with other industries for good employees. Furthermore, over half (51%) said that the government should provide more support to upskill local construction workers.

"It's therefore encouraging to see the federal government pledge $2.8 billion to boost apprenticeship uptake and employee retention. This should help secure a healthy pipeline of skilled talent entering the construction industry, which will in turn support continued economic growth. The key will be augmenting the new and existing labour force with the right technologies to improve quality, productivity and profitability, with nearly half (47%) of Australian construction leaders surveyed by YouGov believing that technology is critical to improving build quality.”

30. Vicki Wright, ANZ Regional Director, MetricStream

“We support this ongoing investment in cybersecurity as a robust security posture can never be a set and forget strategy for either government, business or consumers. Cybersecurity must be a core, central and critical ingredient in any size of business and any budget allocated in support of governance, risk and compliance needs to be proactive, transparent, consistent and ensure that proper protection protocols are established. That goes for both the private and public sector alike!"

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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