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Howard's ICT position contradicted by chief scientist.

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Kim Beazley - Howard's ICT Position Contradicted By Chief Scientist Tuesday, 26 June 2001

Howard's ICT Position Contradicted By Chief Scientist Kim Beazley - Leader of the Opposition

Media Statement - 25 June 2001

The argument put again today in Question Time by the Prime Minister - that Australia needs only to be a high user and not a producer of ICT goods - is against the advice of his own Chief Scientist.

In the report The Chance to Change the Chief Scientist said:

It is not sufficient for Australia to be a fast user of other nations' technology. We must have leading edge capabilities so that we can develop pioneering technologies that will ensure the competitiveness of our industry in the global marketplace of the future. Global customers are both discerning and demanding. Source: The Chance to Change: Final Report of the Chief Scientist, p.9.


For the past week the Prime Minister has been trying to explain away the failure of his Government to nurture what was in 1996 a promising Australian ICT industry by claiming that Australia does not need an indigenous ICT industry.

The fact is that the economic literature, including that which underpins his own Chief Scientist's report, confirms that while using ICT is necessary for an innovative economy, it is not sufficient.

Like Finland and the United States, Australia must be a producer and manufacturer of ICT products - as well as a high user - if we are to stay at the cutting edge of innovation in all emerging industries.

What Howard's argument boils down to is ignoring arguments inconvenient to his political agenda.

This is a Government that is instinctively weak on investment in education and so argues that the 'new economy' is all about usage of technology and labour market reform.

In fact the very same OECD study cited by both Howard and his Treasury (in the Budget Paper No.1 Section 4) is extremely insistent on the need for better skills to capitalise on the information revolution.

Investing in human capital is good for growth, especially in the context of rapid technological change: for ICT to be used effectively and the benefits of new technology to materialize, the right skills and competencies must be in place. Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

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