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Labor's secret policy backflip.

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19 May 2004 66/04

Why is Labor hiding its decision to dump its foolish policy of ripping $140 million budget out of vital support programs for the information and communications technology (ICT) sector?

In March, Opposition leader Mark Latham labelled all initiatives run by the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE) "a waste" and pledged to redirect the entire $140 million allocation outside the ICT sector.

But Opposition finance spokesman Bob McMullan has now told the Canberra Times that Labor plans to cut just 20 of the 160 jobs that would have resulted from the scrapping of NOIE.

If this is true, it means another policy backflip on the part of Labor and yet another significant hole in its projected savings schedule. You can't save $140 million by cutting 20 jobs.

Make no mistake, Mr Latham's surprise announcement that he would rip $140 million out of the ICT budget was ignorant and another example of Labor making bad policy on the run. It was also an embarrassing surprise for Opposition IT spokeswoman Senator Kate Lundy.

Now it appears that Labor has gone weak at the knees in the face of overwhelming evidence that this knee-jerk policy was unsound.

So why hide a rare show of commonsense in dumping this foolish policy?

Why won't Labor explain to the Australian community what this means for the Opposition's proposed budget savings?

And will Labor admit to similar mistakes in its calculations of other Budget savings?

The Howard Government has always recognised that the information and communications technology (ICT) sector is a key driver of Australia's productivity growth in recent years and that it plays a vital role in our economy.

This is why the Government has ensured that all the important programs delivered by NOIE before it was restructured continue to be delivered through the newly created Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) and the Office for

the Information Economy in the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.

And it is why the Government has specifically targeted an additional $308 million on ICT innovation as part of the Backing Australia's Ability - Building Our Future Through Science and Innovation package.

By comparison, what little there is to Labor's publicly stated ICT policy - ripping $140 million out of the ICT Budget and abolishing Invest Australia despite its success in selling the Australian ICT sector around the world - would only weaken and undermine this valuable sector.

Why won't Labor admit that it got it wrong?

Or is this yet another example of confusion within Labor ranks about what its policies actually mean?

Media Contact: Carina Tan-Van Baren (02) 6277 7480 or 0439 425 373