The merging of the ACA and ABA "is nothing but a token exercise."
This was the view of Shadow Minister for Sport and Recreation, the Arts and Information Technology Kate Lundy after the government announced the merging of the Australian Broadcasting Authority and the Australian Communications Authority into one regulator.
According to the office of Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Daryl Williams, the newly formed Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will "enable a coordinated regulatory response to converging technologies and services and to the long-term management of spectrum."
Lundy, however, believes that the merger is nothing but a "token exercise" -- especially since there will be, as Williams admits, "no immediate savings" or difference in the structure or functions of the new authority.
"The fact that they haven't really gotten into details means it's just a token exercise. This merger is a token effort to make it look like they are doing something about it. It's just a 'nothing' measure," Lundy said.
"The bottom line is that there is so little in this budget for Communications and Information Technology. They are trying to make it look like some activity is taking place that's why they merged ABA and ACA," Lundy said.
A spokeswoman from Daryl William's office said "Senator Lundy's dismissal of [ACMA's] creation as a 'token exercise' demonstrates once again her complete ignorance of the reality of the changing media environment and the growing convergence of different sectors of the communication industry."
Commenting on other issues in the newly released government budget, Lundy was concerned about community telecentres around Australia. She said the Federal Government has not allotted future funding for community-initiated projects that are about to finish.
"The community-building capacity of public Internet access received another blow under the Howard government's budget with no recognition for the need for public Internet access services to be maintained, particularly in rural and regional Australia," she said.
Lundy expects that without continued funding the centres will soon close down, cutting off more "than 40 percent of Australians not having home Internet access from government services online, financial services, community information and potential e-learning opportunities."
"This proves that the Howard Government's commitment to public Internet access and connectivity generally has been wholly and solely linked to a Telstra sale bribe," Lundy said.
Williams' office hit back saying,"It beggars belief that Senator Lundy would describe as 'a very small budget' the AU$308 million specifically allocated to ICT innovation as part of the Backing Australia's Ability -- Building Our Future Through Science and Innovation package. The Australian ICT industry will also share a big part of other initiatives in that AU$5.3 billion package."
Williams' office added that "There are a range of other budget spending initiatives which will go straight to the ICT sector. One example is the AU$200m in new Government IT spending, a great deal of which will be received by SMEs because of the Government's SME participation requirements for Government contracts."
Williams' spokeswoman ended by saying "The Opposition cannot bring itself to acknowledge the important benefits of government commitment to ICT and it continues to relegate this vital sector to the back burner when it comes to policy development."