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Alston welcomes new portfolio responsibilities.

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Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts

Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate




‘The Prime Minister’s decision to create a specific Informatio n Technology portfolio is a clear recognition by the Coalition of the importance of this area to the future of Australia,’ the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, said today.


‘The Coalition believes that Government has a vital role in play in IT:

* as a regulator, by ensuring the domestic and international legal and regulatory framework stimulates, not hinders, the development of these industries

* as a facilitator, by providing assistance — both direct and indirect — to the Australian IT&T industries

* as a salesman, by promoting to all Australians the benefits and opportunities offered in the online world, and by promoting Australian efforts worldwide

* as a user, by promoting world-best practice and policy in the way the government uses IT

* as a provider, by ensuring that IT services are available to all Australians, regardless of their personal circumstances.


‘Bringing together the relevant policy areas of government into a single portfolio meets th e Coalition’s election commitment to ensure effective IT cohesion and coordination within the Federal Government, and maximum cooperation with other levels of government and industry.


‘The restructuring will build on the excellent IT development carried out across a range of portfolios by my Cabinet colleagues and their departments and agencies during the Government’s first term.


‘Their efforts helped establish Australia as a globally recognised leader in IT training, in computing software and hardware development, and in the development of internet and other online applications such as electronic commerce.


‘The daily lives of all Australians are being transformed by the information revolution made possible by these developments.


‘It is the Commonwealth Government’s responsibility to work together with industry to ensure that the new opportunities - for new and better jobs, for easier and safer lives, for a more prosperous and exciting future - are made available to all Australians, in both city and country.


‘The Coalition Government did much in the first term to meet this challenge, but we will never pretend that the job is complete. In this fast moving area of technological change, new challenges arise daily. For example, I will work closely with my Cabinet colleague, the Minister for Education, Dr David Kemp. on ways to further address the specialised and general IT training needs critical to Australia’s prosperity in the 21st Century.


‘There is a small window of opportunity for Australia to establish itself as the preferred IT hub of the Asia-Pacific region, and the Government will ensure that Australia utilises its considerable advantages to further expand its already thriving and knowledge-driven IT sector.


‘A priority task will be to ensure that the necessary administrative arrangements are speedily concluded to bring together in a single portfolio the various IT sectors of the government. I have asked relevant advisers in my portfolio to urgently address this issue, and it is expected that the details will be outlined shortly.


‘Another immediate task is preparing for the historic Online Australia Day on November 27, when the benefits and opportunities of the online world will be on display to millions of Australians. This national day will be a precursor to Online Australia Year in 1999.


‘The Government will also move quickly on other Coalition IT commitments — such as untimed internet call access, further development of the Business Entry Point project, continuation of the $28 million Information Industries Action Agenda , and ensuring all appropriate Commonwealth services are delivered electronically on the internet by 2001.


‘The Government will continue to work with its State, Territory and local government colleagues, through the Online Council, and expects that the new arrangements announced will further enhance cooperation across all levels of government.


‘Information Technology is a huge portfolio responsibility in its own right, but there are equally challenging tasks ahead in communications and the arts.


‘The appointment of Mr Peter McGauran as Minister for the Arts and the Centenary of Federation will strengthen the representation in government of Australia’s artistic and cultural sector. Peter’s regional background is a further demonstration of the Coalition’s commitment to regional and rural arts.


‘I also look forward to working closely with Senator Ian Campbell following his appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the expanded portfolio.



Media Contact: Terry O’Connor, Minister’s office 0419 636 879



18 October 1998