The silly season has started early with the announcement today by Prime Minister John Howard that the Federal election will be held on November 10.
For Australia's IT industry, the wait is almost over to see which party is offering the goods.
John Ridge, president of the Australian Computer Society, said IT is important to the Australian economy and that the industry needs a significant investment, which needs to be done "quite rapidly".
"There is a huge opportunity to make a significant investment in local IT companies to stimulate the economy. There needs to be a recognition that we are behind the game and need investment so that when the economy turns around we are in a good position."
Ridge said he did not think the election of either Howard or Labor leader Kim Beazley would result in any significant changes to the Australian IT industry; "it's really up to the industry itself".
"I think the important thing about this election is that IT is an important part of the political platform of both parties. I see this as a reflection of the general acceptance of IT by both parties."
"However, our politicians and bureaucrats have generally suffered from a lack of understanding of IT, except for the Minister responsible and IT opposition spokespeople," Ridge said.
"The people in government that are responsible for IT generally understand the industry and are passionate about it, however, the knowledge, understanding and passion about IT tends to be contained within the department. Once outside the department the knowledge drops off."
Ridge believes both the Liberal and Labor parties are "hampered" by this lack of knowledge and understanding of IT by cabinet, especially when initiatives are being put forward for support.
In regards to IT policy platform priorities, both the Internet Industry Association and ATUG believe broadband should be a high priority.
Rosemary Sinclair, managing director for ATUG said, "We hope to see vision and energy emerging around the broadband issue. ATUG sees this as a the benchmark of connectivity."
Sinclair said there has been a "hesitation" around the issue from the Liberal party but issues surrounding broadband had been picked up by the Labor party in their Knowledge Nation statement and other speeches.
Peter Coroneos, executive director for the Internet Industry Association, noted four other key areas of concern, including the creation of Australian broadband content, tax incentives for encouraging e-commerce, a safer Internet (including free digital certificates for every Australian citizen) and the deregulation of broadcasting.
Sinclair believes if the Howard government were re-elected and Alston remained the Minister for IT, there would be more focus on the structure of competition within the telecommunications market.
"Alston has had some level of impatience with the processes of the industry dealing with fundamental issues such as the PSTN network."