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FILE PHOTO: A smartphone with a Google app icon is seen in front of the displayed Australian flag in this illustration

MONEY & BUSINESS: Google commits $740 million to Australia months after threatening pull-out



FILE PHOTO: A smartphone with a Google app icon is seen in front of the displayed Australian flag in this illustration, January 22, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

November 16, 2021

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Google will spend A$1 billion ($736 million) in Australia over five years, the tech giant said on Tuesday, just months after it threatened to pull its services from the country in response to tougher government regulation.

The main operating unit of Alphabet Inc said it planned to expand cloud infrastructure, set up a research hub staffed by Australian researchers and engineers and partner with science agency the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Google Australia Managing Director Mel Silva, who earlier this year threatened to block Google’s search engine in the country, said the spending plan would bring significant technology resources and investment.

Attending the funding announcement in Sydney, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a “A$1 billion vote of confidence” in Australia’s digital economy strategy, which aims to put the country in the top 10 digital economies around the world by 2030.

“The decision by Google has major benefits for Australian businesses as we engage with the economic recovery before us,” Morrison said. “It will bring more to STEM jobs to our shores … across engineering, computing science and AI,” he added, using the acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Silva threatened during hearings in Australia’s parliament in January to block Google’s search engine to avoid laws forcing the company and social media operator Facebook Inc to pay news outlets for content posted to their websites.

However, the law went ahead and Google backed away from its threat. Both Google and Facebook instead struck licencing deals with most of Australia’s main media companies.

The federal government is scheduled to begin a review of the law’s effectiveness in March.

Australia has also said it plans to make large internet companies take legal responsibilty for defamation and misinformation hosted on their platforms, a change which the technology sector has largely opposed.

“We need to put in an equal amount of effort into making sure the digital world is safe and secure and trusted,” Morrison said.

($1 = 1.3592 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Byron Kaye; editing by Jane Wardell)





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