Right now, the two major parties are going head to head for your vote. It's one of the dullest, greyest elections I can remember. On the one hand you have the first female prime minister, who's quickly proving that female politicians can be just as bad as male, and that the spin doctors really do run the show where Labor is concerned. On the other, you have a guy who has fought most of his battles in so low, so dirty, so utterly nasty a manner that I can't believe the Australian public has already forgotten just how low the Liberals can sink.
Aside from that, you have the Greens being hailed in some quarters as the great white hope, replacing the traditional role of the Democrats to "keep the bastards honest". And yet, as I recently found through a simple question on Twitter, they're full of just as much spin as the rest.
For the first time, I find myself in the unusual position of being a swinging voter. And worse, there's no-one yet that I want
to vote for. I wish that there was a "none of the above" or "no suitable candidate" box I could tick.
For the ICT sector, we've seen two key issues we want to hear about: the National Broadband Network and the Mandatory Internet Filter. We're finding ourselves disappointed so far, with minimal substance to what should be major policy points for all concerned.
We know the Labor stance: Implement the NBN (let's hope they don't remember the international bottleneck). They've stepped away from the Mandatory Internet Filter for a bit - I'm sure the focus groups have indicated it might hurt their re-election.
The Liberals have yet to release a policy, but have stated that they'll dismantle the NBN. They'll most likely oppose the filter purely to have a point of difference (although it's a very Liberal kind of initiative). The Greens support an NBN that's publicly owned, but as a result of preferences trading with Labor, don't have an official stance on the filter.
So it seems like any party will not give ICT pros everything they want. Fast broadband (with international bottleneck) and mandatory secretive filter. Or same old crap and no filter (maybe).
But let's throw something else into the mix. Let's look at the attitude the current government has toward ICT investment in the first instance. You may be aware of the Gershon review which the Labor government undertook - I've talked about it before
, multiple times
). This resulted in an effective slashing of ICT budgets by 15 per cent, which was then carbon-copied by the NSW Government. Right down to the reinvestment fund which will fund future ICT projects.
Today, The Australian revealed
that a re-elected Labor government will dip into the ICT reinvestment fund to pay for promises made in its re-election bid. So not only has the government reduced its existing ICT investments (and I'd argue most of the claimed savings are smoke and mirrors anyway), but it will now reduce the capacity to undertake future projects.
What would a Liberal government do? Probably the same or more. And I'd say the Greens would too. It's monopoly money - they move it around arbitrarily without considering what it impacts.
I can't say I'm surprised. Nor will I be when the NSW Government proposes doing exactly the same thing next year, in the state elections. But it may help you to understand that this is the political reality. The NBN and Filter - constructed by one, dismantled by the other - are considered spin-worthy, vote-winning policies. Nothing more, nothing less. When the wind changes, irrespective of which government holds the balance of power, these will be the first targets for trimming back, cancelling, privatisation and yet more hyperbole.
We don't live in a country with a government that values the importance of technology on our future. And we should be challenging them on this. If we let this pass, we may miss the opportunity to shape a genuine vision for the country's technology future.
Edited by Elly Hart, 3.32am, August 6, 2010.
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