Although Communications Minister Stephen Conroy did promise to unveil a blueprint of the National Broadband Network (NBN) tomorrow, he didn't outline any new significant election policies in the technology field during a speech to the cream of Australia's technology sector in Melbourne today — promising instead "more of the same".
Tomorrow, Conroy said, he will attend a function in Perth with Prime Minister Julia Gillard where he will reveal the exact locations where fibre will be rolled out and which areas will have to rely on satellite or wireless. Conroy promised Gillard would put the event "front and centre", which he hoped would spur the issue of technology to the top of the agenda in the election campaign.
In addition, the minister said he will shortly be visiting Tasmania to celebrate the formal launch of the first customers to be connected to NBN fibre in the state.
Conroy also promised that by the end of 2010, the government would release a "long-term digital economy" strategy that would highlight how the NBN's potential could be fully realised in Australia. He also promised a wide-ranging review of telecommunications regulation.
"If elected, the Labor Government will move to commence a comprehensive review of communications regulations. This type of review would consider all media platforms," Conroy said, "including free TV, subscriptions, video on demand, IPTV and mobile TV."
However, most of his speech focused on his past achievements and his belief that carrying on in the same vein was just the ticket.
"I was interviewed recently for one newspaper, and the interviewer started off by saying what are you going to be doing, more of the same? Or you got a few new ideas?" said Conroy. "And I thought — more of the same. Introduced micro-economic reform, analog switch-off — no, we've not been up to much."
Conroy said the National Broadband Network and the digital television switchover were enormously challenging projects that would require detailed attention.
The Opposition has not yet released any broadband policy as part of the election policy, nor clarified its policy on key issues such as the internet filter. However, it has pledged to cancel the NBN in general if elected.
He took the chance to take a stab at the Opposition, claiming it had had no less than 18 separate broadband policies over the past 20 years that had led to a flawed system.
"In the communications sector, Australians have a choice between progress — moving forward — or standing still," said Conroy.
The lunch was attended by a number of top-ranking local technology executives, including local HP chief Paul Brandling and SMS Management & Technology industry director Paul Cooper, both of whom asked Conroy questions about how the technology industry and government could work better on outcomes.
Commonwealth Bank technology tsar Michael Harte was also in attendance and participated in a panel after Conroy's speech.