Turnbull embarks on US tech tour

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is spending the first few weeks of 2014 meeting with tech giants in the US.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is spending two weeks in the United States meeting with many of the world's largest technology companies.

As parliament is not set to resume until February 11, the minister has travelled to the US for a fortnight for official meetings with a number of technology companies and US government officials.

A spokesperson for Turnbull's office today said that in addition to his meeting with Square's Jack Dorsey, as Turnbull tweeted today, he would also be meeting with Twitter, Facebook, Google, Cisco, and Angel List while on the west coast of the US.

As last week, NBN Co ceased accepting orders for new customers on the interim satellite service, Turnbull has a meeting planned with US communications giant Loral. The company is building NBN Co's two satellites, which are planned to be launched in 2015.

Turnbull will also give a speech at the West Coast Australian-American Leadership Dialogue in Palo Alto, and participate in G'Day USA events in New York that have seen Telstra CEO David Thodey this week fly to the United States.

His office indicated that Turnbull would also be speaking with US government officials about his digital economy proposals.

"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," the spokesperson said.

Although much of the trip was directly related to Turnbull's portfolio, the spokesperson said that Turnbull had paid for the trip himself.

"While the schedule is very heavy with industry and government meetings and engagements, as well as attending the G'Day USA events in New York next week, he is travelling at his own expense," the spokesperson said.

Ministers frequently travel abroad for government business with taxpayers footing the bill, and MPs often spend the non-sitting periods engaged in "study tours" that are also paid for by the taxpayer. A number of MPs, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, were forced to repay some travel expenses once questioned about their legitimacy by the media in late 2013. Federal MPs were reported to have spent AU$5.6 million on study tours between July and December 2012.

Turnbull is not the only parliamentarian visiting US technology companies today; both Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare and Labor MP Ed Husic have recently tweeted that they too have been visiting Google's offices in Kansas City to check out the company's Google Glass technology and its fibre-to-the-home project known as Google Fiber.

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