Hockey wields the meat axe on ICT

Despite a lack of budget and policy details, Coalition figures on ICT cuts emerge

Despite the lack of detail in the Opposition Treasurer Joe Hockey’s recent National Press Club speech, some details have emerged on what cuts the Coalition would make to ICT programs upon taking office.

The cuts to ICT-related programs involves the cancellation of the Rudd Government’s Digital Education Revolution, which sees the rollout of PCs to students, cutting $700 million in spending by 2013-14.

In February, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, defended the program, arguing it is on track to achieving its goal of one PC to every secondary student in years nine to 12 by 2011.

The Opposition would also not proceed with the implementation of individual electronic health records, instead scrapping the $467 million e-health plan.

In his Press Club speech Hockey claimed the budget funding for heath had a “great damn hole” after the first two years of funding for e-health.

“I saw waste in e-health. The fundamental issue about the current e-health initiative is this: The government hasn’t even delivered on its e-health identifier now," he said. "An e-health identifier is obviously hugely important to health records.

"Secondly I would want to see every state government sign up in blood that they are not going software programs that are incompatible when it comes to e-health records because you know what, I just don’t believe them when they say they have good intentions about harmonising the software that is going to be behind e-health records.”

Under a Coalition government the National Broadband Network would be also cancelled completely, saving $18 billion by 2013-14.

In line with this, funding for the NBN implementation would also be cancelled, cutting $24 million by 2013-14.

The Coalition is also claiming a saving on interest of $2.436 billion which would have been paid on the $18 billion in borrowings used to fund the NBN.

“The Government should not be involved in unnecessary and uneconomic infrastructure projects,” Hockey said of the NBN in the Press Club address.

“The Federal Government must not punt the taxpayers’ money on particular technological bets which may become expensive White Elephants.”

In addition, funding for the Green Car Innovation Fund will be reduced by $278 million by 2013-14.

The Coalition’s Rebuilding Sustainable Prosperity policy document, described by Hockey on ABC television on Wednesday, as a “comprehensive economic plan”, has just two passing references to technology and one to telecommunications.

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