Labor fires first tech shots in official election fight

Labor fires first tech shots in official election fight

Summary: On the first official day of the federal election campaign, Labor has placed IT at the centre of its agenda for growth, issuing a challenge to the Coalition on broadband and procurement.


On the first official day of the federal election campaign, Labor has placed IT at the centre of its agenda for growth, arguing that improved broadband and better government tendering processes will be essential to Australia's future competitiveness.

"It is appalling that we rate 25th in the world in terms of available Internet bandwidth," shadow minister for local government Senator Kate Lundy told the Government Technology World conference in Canberra.

"If we're to remain competitive as a country, we have to consider this an absolute priority."

Debate over how best to improve Australia's broadband performance and availability has already been a key feature of the "fake election" campaign, which effectively ended at the weekend with the announcement of the official election date.

Labor's plans to develop a national fibre-to-the-node network in conjunction with the private sector has been attacked by the Coalition as poorly planned and dangerously funded, as it intends to draw on money from the Future Fund, initially designed to pay pension liabilities for public servants.

Lundy noted that when she entered Federal Parliament in 1996, even getting a phone line for dial-up Internet in her office was almost impossible.

"Eleven years later, we're still fighting to get better bandwidth. This is a severe indictment in what has occurred in public policy in ICT over the last 11 years. We need a much bigger vision and a much broader vision to drive that investment forward."

Expanding the IT vision
Coalition policy had consistently minimised the importance of broadband for many years, Lundy said, noting that Communications Minister of the time, Senator Richard Alston, argued in 2001 that Australians were not interested in broadband services. "There was a political commitment to talking down the need for broadband investment," Lundy said.

While reaffirming Labor's commitment to a national broadband network, Lundy argued that broader IT procurement and industry development policies will also be important for the country's competitiveness.

IT needs to be central in thinking about industry growth as a whole, not merely in terms of the ICT industry itself, she said. "Strong ICT development will always be far more than the sum of its parts because it underpins everything. ICT ought to sit at the heart of our thinking on future economic growth."

As Australia's single largest IT buyer, the federal government also needs better policies to get value for money and stimulate industry growth, Lundy added.

"It is because so much of the market is driven by public procurement that it is critical to have a highly effective tendering process. The Howard government has not handled IT procurement well," she said.

Despite problems such as the failure of whole-of-government outsourcing in the mid-1990s, some departments have done well in developing online programs, Lundy said.

"Since I've been in Parliament, I've seen how creative and innovative all spheres of government have been in the delivery of online services," the Senator said.

However, this is rarely due to sensible policy, she argued: "Where terrific innovation has occurred, it's usually been done in the absence of political interference and through the innovation of individuals."

The gradual elimination of policies such as unlimited liability in government contracts and the dismantling of the clustered outsourcing approach have improved matters, Lundy said, but more work is still needed.

"They haven't followed through with ensuring compliance and the sort of cultural change in agencies to genuinely improve outcomes," she noted.

"Governments need to be smart enough buyers to ensure that they understand the technology solutions on offer. If those in our procurement sections are incapable of competently comparing competing technologies that claim to deliver the same outcomes using completely different approaches, procurement will always favour the incumbent."

"What upsets me most is we had the potential to be a world leader in ICT," Lundy said. "We are well positioned still, I hope, to restore our place."

Topics: Broadband, CXO, Government, Government AU, NBN, IT Employment

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  • Disaster awaits Howard and Opel.

    The actions by the Howard Government to supply Australia with a world class fast broadband system have been at best amateurish and at worst traitorous.

    The fact that Howard and Coonan made a gift of one thousand million dollars to a company half owned by the Singapore Government, and this money will become a part of the assets of Optus (Singapore) with the Opel roll-out , is scandalous and an insult to all Australians.

    I hope that Mr Rudd and Senator Conroy, with Telstra, as the only Australian company in a financial position to finance the operation, will announce a plan to commence the FTTN roll-out the day after Labor becomes Government.

    Senator Conroy has given Opel a timely warning that should they proceed with their billion dollar folly not to expect any handout from a Labor Government should their proposed build prove unsuccessful.
  • Tired of the rhetoric

    Mr Lawrence,

    Time and time again you squirt the same tired old Telstra xenophobic arguments about where the money is going under the OPEL agreement.

    What about all the shareholders money your fearless leader Sol is giving to his buddies in the USA? See here:,24897,22573150-16123,00.html

    Whoever wins the election will make more promises regarding broadband that won't hit the nail on the head. That's politics.
  • Broadband required but not as a monopoly for Telstra

    Without a doubt for this country's future a solid, fast countrywide broadband infrastructure is required. This will equally be important for Australia's future in the "new economy" as is roads, rail, ports, water and electricity infrastructure. Such build out needs a high priority if Australia is to be a competitive and growing economy in the future, long after the mining boom wanes.

    This however should not be at the detriment of world class competitive pricing for delivery of bandwidth to both business and consumers. If Telstra has it's way this would be built as another monopolistic juggernaut to fuel its coffers just as the copper network has for the past x years. The broadband solution for the future should be open, competitive and not owned by one single organisation, thus guaranteeing cost effective access for all.
  • It's only words

    True high-speed broadband connectivity throughout Australia is just the tip of the iceberg.

    I want to see the long-term plans to leverage the infrastructure to build a better, more robust and more competitive ICT sector that can earn real export dollars for us once the sheep have died and the coal market has dried up.

    Where is that vaunted 'smart country' that was promised last election?

    Where is all the work for Australian IT firms, both small and medium that was supposed to flow on from the Free Trade Agreement?

    How about some answers instead of sound bytes!
  • Telstra Australian for how long?

    With Telstra busily trying to arrange a takeover by Deutche Telkom and others global players, its doubtful it will remain Australian owned for more than a year or two.
    Infrastructure belongs in the realm of public assets and should be nationalised asap for the protection of all Australians, not just a very small minority.
  • Politics for politics sake

    25th in the world for internet bandwidth means that we rank 25th in terms of global internet access, how is this associated with FTTN and domestic broadband access?

    The reality is that we rank 25th from our coastline to the rest of the world and although this does impact our myspace, youtube & peer-peer ability we must focus on adding content on our shores and providing high speed access to the users.

    Rudd is once again saying what he thinks we what to hear regardless of the accuracy of his comments. Sydney ... I would be glad to get rid of Coonan and her uneducated actions but only if there is a real and viable alternative, right now Rudd is not convincing me.
  • Ban Sydney Lawrence and the Telstra propganda machine

    I hope and pray that maybe one day zdnet and other online forums will ban Sydney from spouting his Telstra propoganda that is fed to him by Dr Phil Burgess. Sydney's only job, 24 hours a day is to try and influence public opinion through forums like these. Please Sydney, go fishing and stop being a fool used by a corporation that really doesn't care about broadband in Australia but only wants to re-monopolise the local loop. I await your typical reply Syd.
  • Go to China

    So what you are asking for is to suppress free speech.

    Why is it that everyone who has the courage to show their name is personally ridiculed and attacked almost immediately by an anonymous stooge who gains strength by denigrating others?

    What should happen is for everyone to register so there are no “anonymous” posts; each person can have a alias in the same way it is done at whirlpool. This will mean we can see who posts what and how often, even log the IP address of the post so there are no multiple aliases.

    I agree with Sydney in many aspects. The government should not be handing out money to anyone, domestic or foreign, without transparency. I have read the OPEL submission (public version) and based on the available information it is without a doubt technically & commercially flawed. To say Telstra is the only one may be going too far but they are definitely the most capable to deliver the best solution.

    Open the flood gates, let all carriers build a network, let all carriers market it their own way and let all carriers make it available at a wholesale level, only then will we really see who is all talk and see who is not.

    I look forward to your personal attack on me Mr / Mrs Anonymous.
  • If I could turn back time

    ... that would be a good name for a song...

    It was sold off to the private sector and that is a decision we all need to live with.

    One minute people like you are saying that the existing infrastructure is old, dilapidated and can not see us into the future the next you are saying it needs to be protected by nationalising.

    There are foreign ownership limits and even with this I could never imagine the people of Australia wanting to sell such a beloved icon to a foreign company, you would never see them doing that to Vegemite or Bonds or even Coles would you?

    Then again according to this site everyone would prefer to get rid of the company altogether. From the general consensus once it’s owned by an overseas firm there would probably be more support for it.
  • Carlos is right

    Of course Sydney L has every right to put forward his views without being personally denigrated.

    And we have every right to point out that what he is saying is a load of old cobblers. . .

    God help Australia if the 300 kilo gorilla is allowed by ANY govt to replicate the monopoly that it used for many years to hold back technical advances while screwing all of us - just because they could.
  • Thankyou texmex

    Three sentences, three valid points but I will like to state one thing again and add some more.

    Open the flood gates, let all carriers build a network, let all carriers market it their own way and let all carriers make it available at a wholesale level, only then will we really see who is all talk and see who is not.

    In addition apply a uniform scheme to the bush to anyone who builds a service is entitled to the same rebates. Do you really think that by giving a company $960,000,000 for a service that will benefit no more then 300,000 households (around 1,500,000 people) that currently do not have access to broadband is effective? With broadband take-up sitting at fewer than 50% (or 150,000 households) wouldn’t it have been better to offer a $5000 per household rebate to any carrier that could provide suitable service? This would have been cheaper for the taxpayers and meant real competition not a new government sponsored monopoly under the disguise of a company called OPEL?
  • Procurement

    Lundy claims that , "The Howard government has not handled IT procurement well," . Since when is procurement the Federal Government's rresponsibility. God forbid!

    The Telstra monopoly's procurements already seem to stink to the high heaven with corruption as alleged in the Weekend Australian and referred to above.,24897,22573150-16123,00.html

    I'm not surprised that Sydney Lawrence is silent on this but I 'm very surprised zdnet's made no comment. What's going on?
  • Ban Sydney Lawrence?

    Please don't ban him. Apart from posting offensive material, no one should be banned. I love Sydney's posts. As well as displaying just how pathetic Telstra's arguments are, they also give a clue as to matters on which Telstra is meaningfully silent.

    There's still no response to allegations in recent issues of "The Australian" regarding shonky tendering from Sol's Yankee mates.
  • No longer government owned

    As a private company their buying processes is no longer in the public domain. If they pay too much and pass on costs then they will simply lose business to more effective companies.

    I am concerned about what Telstra does with their money but am more concerned with what the government does with billions of dollars of taxpayer money.

    I enjoy reading Sydney's comments and you will find he seems to always speak out when regulation shows it's uneven hand, I would rather have a commentary from an educated and focused person rather then an uneducated jack of all trades.

    I used google on his name and found he is not an internal puppet as people would assume but a shareholder who cares about his shares, as am I.

    He is also willing to show his name unlike most of the anti-Telstra people who put obviously politically or competitively motivated comments forward.