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Saturday, 21 August 2010 22:54

Australia is likely to get a hung parliament - what now for Tech?


On early results, it seems that the new Australian Federal Parliament will have around 72 or 73 seats for each of the two major parties and the remaining 5 seats spread across independents and The Greens.  Where does this leave tech in Australia?

Prior to today's election, it was relatively easy to split the major themes of IT&T amongst the parties and determine that each had a different voice.

The ALP supported a full-featured National Broadband Network.  They also supported a filter to block (let's call it) inappropriate content on the internet.  From their official web site: "The NBN will deliver affordable, high speed broadband services to all Australians, no matter where they live or work. The National Broadband Network will extend optical fibre to 93 per cent of premises, with speeds of 100 megabits per second - 100 times faster than many people experience today."

Amusingly, the only reference to the Internet Filter to be found on the ALP web site was in comments to the various articles published there.

The Liberal Party only recently announced that they would reject the filter, they also indicated that they would not support a full NBN.  Instead, they offered what might be called NBN-lite.  According to their web site "The Coalition's plan will deliver a uniform national broadband network, under which 97 percent of premises are able to be served by high speed networks capable of delivering from 100 Mbps down to a minimum of 12 Mbps peak speed, using a combination of technologies including HFC, DSL and fixed wireless."

The Greens are treading between the two.  Despite no specific statements on their policy documents, I understand that they have announced support for the NBN and are vehemently opposed to any Internet Filter.

So, where does the expected electoral result leave us?

Depending on a small number of undecided results, The Greens will either hold the balance of power in the Senate immediately or at the roll-over in June next year.

Due to an oddity in the rules, state-based Senators-elect take their place on the 1st July following the election (over 10 months away), whereas territory-based Senators take the place as at the date of the election.

There is a possibility that the ACT may elect a new Greens Senator who will mean that they will immediately take the balance of power in the Senate.  If this does not occur, they will take the balance of power on July 1st 2011.

Given the current state of play, the first and most obvious conclusion is that the filter is dead (deader than Work Choices!).  Never mind that it had been pushed off to a committee (it won't come back!).

Secondly, the NBN will proceed.  The Greens want it and will insist that it proceeds as part of any Senate or Lower House agreement.

With three rural-based Independents, along with Australia's first-ever Greens member, the Lower House will be forced to support the NBN in a form close-enough to as it currently exists.

In summary, one might reasonably expect that the NBN proceeds but without the ISP-based Internet Filter.  We will also see the return of home-based filter software to be used at the discretion of the individual consumer.

We will also see pressure to have Federal Government move to open source and open standards-based software for all public documents (read The Greens' policy to see why).


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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.





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