Bartlett takes reins of new ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology

Premier to head up new portfolio as Tasmanian cabinet announced

Tasmanian Premier, David Bartlett, has taken responsibility for the state’s new ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology.

As revealed would happen by <i>Computerworld</i> yesterday, Bartlett today announced his new cabinet would include the portfolio that he made a commitment to establishing during election campaigning.

The idea to create the ministry was flagged at an Australian Computer Society (ACS) forum on the island state's ICT policy approach in February.

Aside from his responsibilities as Premier, heading up the new ministry will be Bartlett’s only other role.

“During the election campaign I committed an incoming Labor Government to focus on creating jobs, ensuring a quality health system and providing a decent education for all Tasmanians,” Bartlett said in a statement.

“The cabinet I announced today will work hard to deliver on these commitments.

“Without continued economic growth we cannot provide the jobs that Tasmanians need.

“That is why the three senior members of cabinet all have portfolios with strong economic links to help shape the economy so that Tasmania remains one of the economic powerhouses of Australia.

“I have created two new portfolios of Minister for Industry and Minister for Innovation, Science and Technology.

“I want our economy to be as diverse as possible with support and growth for traditional industries but with a strong focus on the future.

“But our economy needs to grow in a sustainable way so that the wonderful Tasmanian lifestyle can be protected.”

The premier has a background in ICT having worked in the industry and completing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science at the University of Tasmania.

His work in positioning the state as the first region to be connected to the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network (NBN) and publicly stated goals of making Tasmania the most "connected place on the planet" with 85-90 per cent of premises connected to the Internet by optic fibre, is likely to provide industry with some confidence its goals will continue to be high on the agenda.

At time of writing, Bartlett’s office had not responded to requests for comment on the new ministry and further information on what the portfolio remit will be was not available.

During election campaigning both the Greens and Liberals called for an ICT-specific Minister in the state, with the Liberals also committing to create creating chief information officer and chief technology officer roles.

However, Bartlett pushed for the new portfolio approach and has now delivered on establishing the ministry.

Yesterday, Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) CEO, Ian Birks, welcomed the move as a step forward for the ICT industry.

"In a Tasmanian context because they are starting to reap some of the early benefits of the NBN and the digital economy rollout, it is a logical progression to focus ministerial activity on achieving more of those benefits," Birks said.

"I think our experience has shown across Australia, where you have a minister charged with responsibility for innovation or technology, it brings a much greater impact in terms of the wider thinking of technology.

"The positive impact is not just to have the minister, but that minister and the department can start to influence the behaviour of other departments in a positive way. We have seen that in Victoria over the last five to eight years.

"Where that isn't happening is in NSW."

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