The day of the spill: Australia’s tech sector reacts


The Labor leadership spill events of the past 24 hours that have led to the swearing-in of Julia Gillard as Australia’s first female Prime Minister have been an emotional roller coaster for the Australian public — it has an been an attention-grabbing blockbuster of Hollywood proportions.

The implications of future change due to the leadership spill to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector could be huge — especially if Communications Minister Stephen Conroy loses his portfolio. Major players in the ICT industry were contacted by Delimiter today to gather their thoughts on the political earthquake that shook this southern nation’s breaches off.

Telstra was positive in its feedback regarding Gillard’s rise to Prime Minister and is already taking proactive steps to cement an amiable relationship with her office. “The CEO and the chairman will be writing to Ms Gillard to congratulate her on her elevation to the Prime Ministership. Telstra looks forward to working with her and her government,” the company said in a statement.

Communications giant Optus was not phased by the changes and remained fixed on the fact that Gillard will continue to stand by the National Broadband Network scheme.

An Optus Spokesperson said, “Optus looks forward to continuing to work with the Federal Government to implement the National Broadband Network and put in place important regulatory reform in the telecommunications sector.”

Internet Industry Association CEO Peter Coroneos was hesitant in predicting any changes at this early stage but, remained confident that the NBN would go ahead as planned.

Coroneos said he would like to see a cabinet reshuffle but that would unlikely due to the looming election. The CEO stated that the IIA supported the NBN and E-Security National Agenda (ESNA) — the Australian Government initiative created in 2001 to secure public and private Australia fromany electronic nasties. However, he added that the IIA does not support the ISP filtering policy and that he doesn’t think we will see any changes regarding that this year.

“It is too early to tell what the implications will be. She did restate her commitment to the NBN so we don’t see that changing, though the prospects of further enabling legislation passing before the election is remote,” he said. “There is the need for a cabinet reshuffle but the extent would likely be minimal given the proximity to the election.”

“The IIA has supported the policies of this Government in two out of three major areas: NBN and their eSecurity agenda. We differ only in our view on the mandatory ISP filtering policy, the effectiveness of which we question. But again we will likely not see legislation in that area this year.”

Tracey Fellows, managing director of Microsoft Australia, gave Gillard props for her new role as PM and encompassed the implications such a powerful female role model will have on Australian women.

“Julia Gillard’s appointment as Prime Minister is a historic moment for Australia and for Australian women. Having a female prime minister provides a strong role model and will inspire young women to pursue their dreams and aim high in their careers. Microsoft is committed to supporting and celebrating opportunities for women in the workplace and public life, and we congratulate Julia Gillard on becoming the first woman Prime Minister of Australia,” she said.

The Australian Information Industry Association’s CEO Ian Birks said the AIIA believed that former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had a a good understanding of the ICT sector and how important it was to the future of Australia and that Gillard would keep on that path.

However, Birks also called for the Government to appoint a chief technology officer as some other national governments have done.

“AIIA believes that Kevin Rudd was a Prime Minister who did understand the broad positive impact that ICT can have in driving economic, social and environmental benefits — this is manifested in his support for the NBN, the Digital Education Revolution, smart grids and other projects. AIIA is broadly confident will Julia Gillard will be of similar mindset.”

“At this moment the leadership change will most likely not have a substantive effect on the sector, certainly not before the election. The only likely change we anticipate is very clear messaging on the benefits of the NBN and the difference in position between the Govt and Opposition on this major project.”

“AIIA would like to see the PM give some consideration for the appointment of a new Chief Technology Officer, who – in a similar fashion to the Obama administration appointment, would provide an over-arching view of the positive transformational impact of ICT can have on all major portfolios and related policies/programs.”

“AIIA strongly advocate the need of a CTO for a modern government. ICT is game changer and will be the key underpinning for the future success of Australia. We are keen to see the technology sector identified as an area of specific economic focus for Australia.”

“This is a pivotal year for the technology sector. Australia is at a crossroads around its digital future – and the decisions we take around this area will have an enormous flow on effect within our economy. The NBN is Australia’s largest infrastructure project, and Australian business is recognising the importance of a technology framework to allow us to become more globally competitive. If there is a broad Ministerial restructure, we would be keen to see a separate junior minister appointed to the Digital Economy – given its impact on our economic future.”

“As the Minister responsible for both Education and youth, Julia Gillard would recognise the growing importance of technology in our schools – allowing us to successfully compete with other nations who are heavily investing in this area of education.”

Bruce Lakin, the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Computer Society talked of the importance of training up the older age bracket in the workforce with emerging technologies and that he would like to see this take place as a new initiative under Gillard.

“Another important issue requiring urgent national attention is skills and in particular the impact of an ageing workforce,” he said. “Prime Minister Gillard’s work in the area of social inclusion provides important background in this important topic. Employer incentives for ICT training and retraining are needed to address skills gaps. We are keen to see national programs encouraging mature workers to stay in the employment market, and addressing ageism.”

Image credit: Adam Carr, Creative Commons