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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Page: 1542


Senator LUNDY (5:49 PM) —John Button was elected in 1974 and served as senator for Victoria until 1993. I would like to take this opportunity to reflect upon his career in his capacity as minister for industry and commerce. He is remembered as the architect of Labor’s industry and tariff reforms, as well as for his good humour and wit, which we have heard a little bit about today. Much is being said and written about his great contribution to Australian public life, and I note that the Parliamentary Library has included in its collection of biographical information on John Button a selection of his writings on topics ranging from politics to travel; an Australian republic, which he supported; and the AFL football team Geelong, which we know he strongly supported. I commend this biographical collection to senators. He was a principled politician as well as an entertaining writer.

I would like to pay particular attention to the role that he played with respect to the development of policy that saw the support and growth of Australia’s information technology industry. This might seem a little specific for a condolence motion, but, having paid serious attention to our IT industry over many years, I could not count the times that people from both the private and public sectors have reflected on the contribution of John Button’s policies towards the growth of IT in this country.

There were two major public policy programs: the partnerships for development associated with public procurement and the partnering of local IT companies with multinational companies, and the fixed term arrangements program, which again created relationships between large and small companies and saw the growth of the Australian IT industry through a period of time when it would have been pretty easy to just rest on our laurels. Senator Button did the opposite. He took the opportunity and applied his intellect to some extremely clever policies that gave Australia a greater capacity to create growth from innovation and the applied use of technology. He understood the global market, and we all know so many of his policies were about improving Australia’s engagement with the global economy. Labor’s leading policies in this regard have certainly stood us in great stead with respect to our credentials on industry policy ever since.

I will not speak longer, but I am here on behalf of people and businesses in the IT industry in Australia who I know would like me to acknowledge the contribution that Senator Button made to that particular aspect of industry policy. I take great inspiration from his work and I would like to convey my condolences to his family at this time.