Communications Minister Stephen Conroy today told press at the launch of a new Macquarie Telecom call centre that he didn’t consider information technology to be part of his portfolio — claiming that role belonged to Industry Minister Kim Carr.
Various sections of Australia’s technology sector have speculated over the past few weeks that new Prime Minister Julia Gillard could split Conroy’s portfolio up — giving the IT part to Labor Senator Kate Lundy, who has demonstrated an enduring interest in the sector, and leaving Conroy with the NBN ball and regulation of the telco sector.
“Well, IT is not formally part of my portfolio — I’m broadband communications and the digital economy and Kim Carr looks after IT, so it is actually already split,” Conroy said, referring to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
Conroy’s statement mimics a situation experienced directly after the 2007 Federal Election, when it was unclear whether Australia’s peak IT research group, National ICT Australia, was the responsibility of Carr or Conroy. At the time, Opposition Senator Eric Abetz said the Government was “in a bit of a muddle” with the group — leaving NICTA hanging somewhere between the two ministers.
Conroy also addressed the issue of the Federal Government’s controversial internet filtering policy. In a radio interview this morning, Prime Minister Julia Gillard made her first comments in regards to the Internet filter since winning the Labor leadership several weeks ago. “Stephen Conroy is working to get this in the right shape,” she told ABC Local Radio in Darwin.
When asked what this meant this afternoon, Conroy laughed, responding: “The same as what I have been saying for the last few months, which is we have been consulting on the accountability and transparency measures. We put out our discussion paper and we got a lot of feedback.”
“We’re currently working our way through those issues and we’ve been discussing this at considerable length so that’s what she’s referring to the same as what I’ve been saying for a month or two now.”
When a journalist asked Conroy if the move by Defence Minister John Faulkner to the backbench would open opportunities for Conroy, he said that he would prefer to stay on in his current role as Minister for Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy.
“The Prime Minister, obviously, of the day decides portfolio allocations,” said Conroy. “If she was to ask me my opinion I would say I would like to stay on this portfolio to finish the work on the National Broadband Network. I’ve worked on it since we’ve first created the policy on 2005 and I would like to work my way through.”
“But ultimately I would take any offer that the Prime Minister makes after the election but but I’m very comfortable in this portfolio and there is a lot of work still to be done.”
Look out for the full video of Conroy’s press conference later tonight.