New Federal Cabinet likely next week

Prime Minister John Howard is likely to announce a new Cabinet next week including changes to the IT, communications and outsourcing portfolios.

A spokesman for the current IT and Communications Minister Richard Alston indicated there may be changes to the portfolio structure, but said "it won't be anything radical like splitting communications and IT" which was proposed by Labor earlier this year.

Despite speculation Senator Alston will be promoted to a new portfolio, his spokesman said the Minister would be happy to remain in IT believing there is still "plenty more work to be done".

"But that's for the Prime Minister to determine, we will have to wait until next week," the spokesman said.

The departure of Finance Minister John Fahey means there will be a new face responsible for the Government's controversial outsourcing program which was previously managed by the Office of Asset Sales and Information Technology (OASITO).

A review of the outsourcing program earlier this year led to OASITO being replaced by the Office of Asset Sales and Commercial Support (OASACS) in the 2001-2002 Budget.

Australian Computer Society president John Ridge believes the industry will benefit if Senator Alston retains the IT portfolio.

"I hope Senator Alston stays; the feeling we had before the election was that he would retain his position if the Government was re-elected," Ridge said.

"Contrary to general public perception, Senator Alston understands the industry and portfolio well.

"The industry needs to ensure that whoever has the portfolio has an understanding of our industry."

Ridge said a review of IT outsourcing guidelines is necessary before the program is extended any further. There needs to be an increase in spending on local Australian IT products and services.

Australian Internet Industry Association (AIIA) executive director Rob Durie was unwilling to speculate on the new Cabinet line-up, but added that Senator Alston has done a reasonable job.

"He is doing a good job in some areas, but not in others; NOIE is going well but digital broadcasting and datacasting has been done poorly," he said.

In relation to outsourcing, Durie said while individual departments are now taking more responsibility for outsourcing initiatives, he hoped the Government will press on with further outsourcing now the election is out of the way.

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