The leading political parties in Tasmania have backed the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) as a foundation for boosting economic fortunes in the leadup to the state's election.
At an Australian Computer Society (ACS) forum on the island state's ICT policy approach titled, Election 2010 – Tasmania’s Technology Future, Labor premier, David Bartlett, Opposition leader, Will Hodgman, and Greens leader, Nick McKim, outlined their visions for the ICT industry.
Bartlett reiterated his now-frequent call for the state to become the most "connected place on the planet" with 85-90 per cent of premises connected to the internet by optic fibre.
In contrast to the reticence of his Federal Liberal colleagues in refusing to outline a position on the NBN, Tasmanian opposition leader, Will Hodgman, expressed support for the network as infrastructure that could help reverse the brain drain from the state while creating new business opportunities.
"We can look at ways to attract new business to this state through this infrastructure," he said.
Greens leader, Nick McKim, acknowledged the efforts made by the incumbent party to make Tasmania the first place to be connected to the NBN and added it would be used to help transition the state to a low or zero carbon economy.
He also called for a study into the skills that will be needed to leverage the NBN and the development of a broadband-specific institute, similar to the one operating at the University of Melbourne, the Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (IBES).
Overall, the political leaders varied little in their views on the roll ICT and the NBN could play in the state, each expressing support for the industry’s enabling power and pledging to enhance its role going forward.
The across-the-board support for the NBN shown at the ACS forum backs up comments by political commentator, Professor Richard Herr, from the University of Tasmania, who recently said the State’s economy and the pulp mill site on the Tamar River are the major issues.
The Tasmanian NBN rollout was officially announced in July last year. The project involves the construction of a seven kilometre fibre optic transmission link between Aurora Energy's Cambridge Data Centre and Midway Point.
Work officially commenced in September, with the first cables being laid in five-year-old foundations.
The major difference, however, between the political leaders in the lead up to the March 20 election on the ICT front appears to be over the possibility of a ministerial portfolio.
Both the Greens and Liberal parties have called for an ICT specific Minister, but Bartlett is opting to push a new portfolio for innovations, science and technology should he be re-elected.
Hodgman, meanwhile, also committed to creating chief information officer and chief technology officer roles in his government should the Liberals be elected.