ICT Election Forum: what questions?

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) is once more holding a Federal Election Forum on ICT issues, with the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy, his Coalition counterpart Tony Smith MP, and The Greens’ spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam.

As you can see from the photos, Australia’s political diversity is once more represented by a bunch of middle-aged men in dark suits.

When I wrote about the equivalent event in 2007, I noted that the Minster at the time, Liberal Senator Helen Coonan, looked rattled and scored a few own goals. Conroy, by comparison, was alert and scored some sharp political points. And Democrat leader Senator Lyn Allison — remember the Democrats? — was quietly confident.

Labor’s broadband promise was a Fibre to the Node network with a “guaranteed” minimum speed of 12Mb/sec to 98% of Australians, costing $4.7 billion. The Liberals were promising WiMaX through the OPEL consortium. From memory, mandatory internet censorship didn’t even get a mention, as both parties only added that little gem to their agendas after the official campaign period had started.

How times have changed…

This year’s moderator is Sky News political editor, David Speers. An odd choice, I must say. Sure, he has the profile and Sky News Business is the host broadcaster. But wouldn’t it have been better to have someone with a better technical knowledge of the portfolio, rather than a general political news reporter? My worry is that it’ll degenerate into political point-scoring rather than analysing competing policies.

So let’s help out Mr Speers. What are the issues this year, do you think? What questions should he ask?

I think we can take a question or two about internet censorship for granted. Please try to think beyond the obvious indignation du jour.

The Federal Election Forum is next Tuesday 10 August 2010 at the National Press Club in Canberra. The debate starts at 1pm Canberra time and will be broadcast on Sky News Business and possibly ABC News 24. [Update 3pm: The Forum will also be streamed live at YouTube’s Australia Votes channel.]

[Photo credits: Stephen Conroy via Wikimedia Commons. Tony Smith via Office of Tony Smith MP. Scott Ludlam via The Greens. This composite image is licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-2.0 license.]

4 Replies to “ICT Election Forum: what questions?”

  1. Most people would be able to see the need for fast, reliable, nationwide broadband but at what point does it become too expensive for Government to pay for it?

  2. Several questions, not all directly related to the technology.

    On the filter:
    – when will Labor drop or amend to a more widely acceptable model (i.e. opt-in, optional for ISPs) their filter policy given it’s now guaranteed defeat in the Senate in its current form?
    – when will Senator Conroy accept the filter policy is not about “opting in to child porn” and acknowledge there are wider issues that deserve clear debate?
    – when will Senator Conroy engage in that debate rather than erecting straw men with respect to child porn?

    On open government:
    – what guidance or imprimatur do the participants suggest be offered to federal agencies with respect to opening their data stores in order to release the potential economic and social value held in that data?
    – what actions will the participants take in their capacity (whatever that may be) after the election to ensure that federal agencies are encouraged to participate openly with the public in the spirit of the Declaration of Open Government?
    – how can public sector and parliamentary culture be changed to encourage the public sector to engage openly with the public?

    I could do near infinite nuance on most of these, but that’ll do.

  3. What, exactly, are the Liberals proposing to do to the NBN? Some reports say that they’ll fragment it into regional infrastructure companies, but that will fail in the face of Telstra’s usual antics.
    So is the Liberal plan just another typical “Leave it to the Market” which will result in a continuation of Telstra’s stranglehold on the Australian IT&C Industry?

    This leads to the obvious followup: Will the Liberals proceed to separate Telstra into its Retail & Wholesale operations as 2 distinct companies/businesses? ie: no more “chinese walls”.

    As others have noted – Conroy is a fool to persue the absurd Internet Filter (yes, it’s an oxymoron), so I re-emphasis that the Filter Issue is dragging on the Industry & needs to be made either opt-in & non-mandatory, otherwise it’s yet more Labor waste.

  4. Senator Conroy equates optional ISP-based filtering to “opting into child pornography.” My question, then, is which filtered ISP does the Senator subscribe to for his home connection?

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