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‘Behind the 8-ball’: Atlassian says Australia being left behind due to bad tech regulation

‘Behind the 8-ball’: Atlassian says Australia being left behind due to bad tech regulation

Atlassian billionaire Scott Farquhar has hit out at the government over its approach to technology, arguing Australia’s digital economy and society risk being left behind due to misguided regulation of the sector.

The comments from the co-founder of Australia’s most prominent technology company come amid a global push to regulate technology companies, which have become the most valuable and powerful corporations in the world, and as the Australian government finalises legislation designed to force  Facebook and Google to pay media companies for news content. 

“The tech industry and its wider benefit to society is being hampered by poor government regulation,” Mr Farquhar said. “It’s putting Australia behind the 8-ball, at a time when we are trying to grow the industry with all the economic impact and jobs that come with it.”

Atlassian co-chief executives Scott Farquhar (foreground) and Mike Cannon-Brookes.

Atlassian co-chief executives Scott Farquhar (foreground) and Mike Cannon-Brookes.Credit:Louie Douvis

Atlassian is opposed to the government’s proposed media bargainning code which presses the tech platforms to strike deals with publishers to ensure news creators are paid fairly by the digital platforms for journalism.

The $70 billion valued Australian software giant is concerned about the precedent the legislation would set for addressing competition concerns on the internet.

Atlassian has published a set of eight principles to help guide technology regulation which it wants the government and regulators to consider and test before passing laws.

These include considering whether measures are aimed directly at clear objectives, ensuring a key understanding of technology, using proportionate means and minimising unintended consequences.

Atlassian also calls for regulation to be the product of meaningful consultation, and says the government must provide transparency and create fair procedures. It says regulation must be aimed at systemic actions and outcomes rather than individual companies, be mindful of global standards, seek to enhance global interoperability and provide a consistent and reliable framework for business and investment.

“Regulations should not be created in a nearsighted manner to target only certain companies or trends of the moment,” it said.

In recent months the European Union has announced a suite of measures to curb the power of big tech companies, while the US government has launched multiple legal cases against Google and Facebook on competition grounds.

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Altassian called for better engagement from the Australian government with the technology sector in developing regulations following concerns over the government’s lack of consultation over its controversial encryption laws, changes to the research and development tax incentive and the tax treatment of employee share schemes.

“There are too many examples of regulation developed in an information and viewpoint vacuum, which generally leads to poor results,” Atlassian said.

David Masters, global head of public policy at Atlassian, said the principles will be used to help frame the tech giant’s public policy conversation with governments.

“As tech is moving so quickly and governments are trying to catch up, we’re providing guide rails to help both sides of the debate,” he said. “We want others to be able to use them or modify them to meet their own needs. We hope they will help the startup sector in particular, who aren’t as well resourced in public policy but have just as much skin in the game when it comes to tech regulation.”

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