Unisys recruits outsourcing aficionado

Multinational IT services heavyweight Unisys has adopted a war footing on the lobbying front, appointing a former NSW premier, Howard government finance minister and 1990s whole-of-government outsourcing enforcer, John Fahey to the advisory board of its Australian arm.

The move sends a clear signal the vendor is prepared to play political hardball against IBM, EDS and CSC to grab new government contracts as current outsourcing agreements - many of which were originally made by Fahey's then-office - come to a close.

Having registered a first-quarter 2005 loss of $US45.5 million, Unisys has endured a difficult year that has seen its share price halve.

Fahey's appointment follows closely on the federal government move to place its key internal IT strategy agency, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) back under the portfolio umbrella of the Department of Finance and Administration, from Communications and IT.

Unisys wasted no time in promoting the experience and influence it hopes Fahey can wield in the corridors of power. "As the private and public sectors become less disparate, it is crucial to keep abreast of new government policies and practices. One example is outsourcing in government, and the trend that is now to smaller contracts. I am pleased to be able to assist Unisys in assessing changing trends in political, legal and governance practices, and to support the continued growth of the organization in the Australian market," Fahey said in a Unisys statement.

Fahey's appointment also carries some inherent risk, not least the factional baggage that comes with hiring former politicians - and the fact all seven states and territory governments are currently held by hostile Labor governments.

The office of Fahey's former nemesis, NSW Commerce Minister John Della Bosca, declined to comment on Faheys appointment, as did the office of current federal government IT counterpart, Special Minister of State Eric Abetz. Similarly, representatives of AGIMO also steered well clear of voicing any opinion.

John Fahey, who transferred from state to federal politics, retired from political office at the 2001 federal election.

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