ALP stands firm on industry ICT plan

The Labor party today showed no sign of bending on an IT policy decision that has some groups concerned the industry would lose its voice under a Labor government.Labor ICT spokesperson Senator Kate Lundy was today sticking to her guns over the opposition's plan to strip the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts of some responsibilities for IT and place them under the broader ministerial category of industry.

The Labor party today showed no sign of bending on an IT policy decision that has some groups concerned the industry would lose its voice under a Labor government.

Labor ICT spokesperson Senator Kate Lundy was today sticking to her guns over the opposition's plan to strip the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts of some responsibilities for IT and place them under the broader ministerial category of industry.

The Senator argued that the current portfolio environment was too confusing for businesses currently seeking governmental assistance. She said it was more logical to nest IT industry development initiatives alongside those of other industries.

"You double that with the logic that IT underpins the productivity of every company, or every business in Australia, and it makes even more sense that ICT sits at the heart of industry policy in Australia from here on in and that's Labor's commitment," said Lundy at a media event in the NSW Hunter Valley earlier today.

Lundy said the switch was part of an overall strategy to create high-skilled high-wage jobs in IT manufacturing, following the lead of economies like the Netherlands.

However, at least one industry group has expressed concerns that the industry may lose its status within government.

Australian Computer Society president Edward Mandla today sent a letter to the opposition leader Mark Latham asking for his assurance the industry would retain ministerial and cabinet status under a Labor-led government.

The policy announcement also evoked murmurs in industry about how it would impact on government's ability to co-ordinate overlapping communications and industry policy should the plan be implemented.

Incumbent ICT Minister Helen Coonan was quick to pick up on the criticisms in her IT policy address Sunday, claiming that the IT portfolio would become fragmented and watered down.

Kate Lundy today said that critics of the plan seemed to have forgotten that only part of the responsibility would be palmed off to industry.

Under the plan, responsibility for parts of Australia's IT policy framework that addresses the social impact of ICT within the community will be retained by DCITA under a new body to be called E-Australia.

E-Australia will address social and cultural thrown up by the Internet.

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