Members misled over Microsoft mix up

A bewildered Microsoft was at the centre of a political slanging match in Federal Parliament last week after the Opposition accused the Government of forking out $20,000 of taxpayers' money to send local executives from the software company to attend a conference in the US.

Microsoft was quick to deny the charges which were raised during Senate question time and released a curt statement that said: "It is a matter of policy that Microsoft does not accept government funding for travel to events such as conferences."

While a chorus of Opposition Senators screamed 'scandalous' in the background, Labor Senator George Campbell called on the Howard Government to justify the expenditure on multinational executives, but the story proved to be a furphy.

Not wanting the facts to get in the way of a good story, politicians are notorious for fudging perceptions in the name of political point scoring and this was no exception with Senator Campbell's office producing documents from the the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources listing travel details, references to the trip and grant expenditure under the Innovation Access program.

Details of the list of participants who attended the conference in Seattle included an executive named "Adam Buchanan, enterprise business manager, Microsoft Australia".

A baffled Microsoft spokeswoman said the software giant has no idea how Adam Buchanan was on the list because he is an account manager in Brisbane and the real enterprise business manager is Gerhard Rumpff, which only created more confusion.

Poor Adam Buchanan embroiled in an alleged political scandal he knows nothing about. Not to be thwarted Senator Campbell's office is now claiming the department has misled the Senate and will raise the matter when Parliament sits again in three weeks time.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources Ian Macfarlane said the documents which formed the basis of the drama were produced by the department before any trip took place in the middle of this year, adding Senator Campbell did not bother to get up-to-date information after the trip occurred. She speculated the document was a list of attendees at a lunch organised by the department.

In the aftermath of the debacle, Computerworld asked Microsoft if it had contacted the Government to correct information provided by the department and to call on it to get its own house in order, but the company was unwilling to comment any further on the incident.

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