Turnbull cans Silicon Valley tech trip

The prime minister has cancelled a trip next week to Silicon Valley, although the foreign minister will still attend the UN General Assembly in New York.

Australia's new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has canned a trade mission to Silicon Valley and New York next week that former Prime Minister Tony Abbott had planned to take.

The trip had been planned to encompass the United Nations General Assembly, which Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will still attend, as well as a visit to Silicon Valley in San Francisco with a delegation of technology business leaders, which has been cancelled.

"As part of the Australian government's plan to strengthen our economic opportunities and build broader relationships with key partners, the prime minister ... will be visiting Silicon Valley and a select high-level business delegation will accompany the prime minister," Abbott's invitation to the chosen business delegates had said.

According to Parliamentary Secretary for Communications Paul Fletcher, the digital economy and technology innovation will remain of importance to the former communications minister -- in spite of the business-tech visit to the United States being cancelled.

"Another big trend is digital disruption, which is affecting every industry," Fletcher told ABC television on Thursday.

"That is something that Malcolm Turnbull in his personal experience has been very familiar with, as communications minister has been very engaged with it."

During his tenure as communications minister, Turnbull spent several weeks in the US at the beginning of 2014, meeting with various tech companies such as Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Cisco, along with US government officials.

"He will visit Washington to meet with the US government to discuss postal service reform, e-government, and cybersecurity, as well as to speak at the USSC conference in Washington," a spokesperson from Turnbull's office said in January last year.

That trip, though directly related to his work as communications minister, had been self-funded.

Given Turnbull's history of making tech issues prominent in his policy -- for instance, establishing the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) in January this year and undertaking frequent reviews into the NBN -- several industry groups have expressed their hopes that the government under Turnbull will provide greater funding and support to the IT industry.

"In today's digital world, having a former communications minister take the top job will bring a much-needed stronger focus on innovation, technology, and digital education and skills," said Australian Computer Society CEO Andrew Johnson on Tuesday.

Analyst firm Ovum agreed, saying that Turnbull's background in tech will aid the country's ability to keep up with the global digital economy.

"It's clear that the change to the top job in Australia will have significant consequences for the IT industry," said Al Blake, principal analyst for Government Technology at Ovum.

"Turnbull was a founder of the successful ISP Ozemail and, although he didn't actually invent the Internet in Australia as some of the more breathless commentators have alleged, the incoming PM is from a background that understands technology and, more importantly, appreciates what it can do to stimulate the economy and improve society.

"He's on record as regarding 'digital literacy' as important as reading and supporting open access to government data ... Having someone with an understanding of technology at the highest position in government cannot be underestimated."

With AAP