Coonan: Labor ICT policy anti-business

IT Minister Helen Coonan has labelled Labor's IT policy, which was launched earlier today, as anti-business.

The Minister said Labor's plans to scrap the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) and replace it with a new body dubbed Government IT and Online (GITO) shows a clear disregard for the local IT industry.

"Labor is taking the knife to AGIMO despite the leadership it has shown in the use of IT and interoperability in government and online service delivery," she said.

At the launch of its ICT policy today, shadow IT spokeswoman Senator Kate Lundy said Labor will create a new administration for ICT industry-related policy and programs with greater emphasis on 'industry' pointing out that Australia's ICT trade deficit spiralled to $14.4 billion in 2002. "During the Howard government's reign manufacturing in ICT actually shrank in Australia; the trade deficit is a graphic symbol of the government's indifference to the importance of a local, exporting ICT industry," Lundy said announcing the creation of a National Manufacturing Council with ICT representation.

However, Coonan said Labor's policy, which has a strong "Buy Australia" emphasis and promotes local homegrown talent, promotes onshoring by scraping Invest Australia an agency that has secured $580 million in ICT investment in the last 12 months.

She said Labor's plans to incorporate IT with an industry portfolio and separate communications is simply an act of "slashing and burning."

"Industry must question Labor's commitment to IT. After more than eight years in opposition Labor still doesn't think IT is important enough to rank as a Cabinet position," Coonan said referring to the junior portfolio ranking IT will get under a more senior Industry portfolioi if Labor wins government.

"Hidden inn the savings for its tax plan, Labour announced it would scrap the accelerated depreciation for software. This is a typical Labor anti-business measure which will have a much larger impact on the IT sector and the economy than the $35 million a year Labor is claiming it will save," Coonan said.

"Senator Lundy has indicated that she would reallocate $34 million for the ICT Incubators program, despite the fact it has attracted $160 million of private capital and supported 340 start-ups."

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