IT gets a Clayton's budget

Australia's IT sector will have to be satisfied with the Federal Government's previously announced 'innovation package' as its 'budget', because it certainly missed out in the official one.

In January, Prime Minister John Howard presented the 'Backing Australia's Ability' $2.9 billion five-year plan, providing funding in the areas of science, research and innovation.

Telecommunication analyst Paul Budde said the government has "little idea of direction and no vision" for the IT industry and "will continue to act as a chook with its head chopped off".

Budde said visionary statements about where the Government will use IT&T as a spearhead in our society should have been included.

"Followed up by strategic directions, no willynilly handouts, such as opening up competition between IT platforms (telecoms, broadcasting, cable TV and wireless) and executing strategies. We have been waiting five years on issues such as interconnect, local loop access and number portability. We are still working on the 1992 legislation as the 1996 legislation seems to be unworkable."

When asked about the lack of IT announcements in this year's budget, a spokesman for the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, immediately pointed to the innovation plan as the big spend and big win for the IT sector.

Defending the Government's record in IT, the spokesman added: "Labor doesn't even have a dedicated IT shadow minister."

Opposition IT spokesperson, Senator Kate Lundy said the Government's budget was a "missed opportunity".

"There was very little for IT; no vision, growth or strategy for the sector."

Highlights of the innovation package included $151 million to create 2000 more ICT, mathematics and science universities places, changes to the immigration and visa policy for Australian-trained ICT professionals and $176 million was put aside for centres of excellence in biotechnology and ICT.

At the time of the announcement of the 'Innovation Package', response from industry groups was mixed.

Leo van Neuren, executive officer for the Information Technology Telecommunication Industry Training Advisory Body (IT&TAB) said the sector had been "left out in the cold".

However, Rob Durie executive director for the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) said the plan was a positive step forward; "we see it not as a panacea, but as a good first step".

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