"Last month the Territory's ICT sector heard it had been ignored by the Commonwealth for funding for ICT incubators -- despite Senator Coonan claiming it was a 'national program'," Henderson said.
A spokesperson from Henderson's office said Coonan visited Darwin this week as part of the election campaign trail but refused to meet with Henderson or address the local communication minister's challenge. The spokesperson said she had heard that Coonan advised that the Northern Territory link up with the Western Australia incubator instead.
"The Northern Territory was the only jurisdiction left out, and it was a kick in the guts for the four Territory businesses affected which had all been producing good results under the Commonwealth scheme since 2000," he added.
Henderson said "The federal government has simply abandoned the Territory's growing ICT sector, despite crowing about a national program."
A spokesperson from Coonan's office said when the government announced the extension of funding for incubators, they noted that "only the better performing incubators would be funded, and that it was envisaged that only 6 to 8 incubators would receive funding."
"The government has funded eight out of the 11 incubators and committed AU$36 million. The government concluded that ITem3 and Original IT Investments incubator had not performed as well as other incubators. This confirmed the findings of the evaluation of the incubators carried out last year by the Allen Consulting Group," Coonan's spokesperson added.
She said that if there are good investment opportunities in the Northern Territory, they could be supported by one of the incubators.
The government warned incubators that have received government funding saying that the "Labor party has revealed it would cut the AU$36 million of funding."
However, the shadow minister for Communications and Information Technology, Senator Kate Lundy, defended the party saying that "Labor categorically denies we have any plans to slash ICT incubator funds. I merely expressed surprise that the Howard government had funded so many incubators, given that their rhetoric implied a number would be culled. For Senator Coonan to issue a press release saying this equated to Labor cutting this funding is dishonest."