Beazley outlines grand IT plan

Kim Beazley, Australia's Federal Opposition leader, today launched Labor's IT policy platform Knowledge Nation with plenty of bold promises as the country moves towards an election.

Beazley has pledged to double Australia's overall investment in research and development by 2010, and that it will become one of the first nations to provide universal access to high-bandwidth services.Describing it as a "big, bold, ambitious plan", Beazley said Knowledge Nation requires a long-term commitment to change Australia's priorities.

Unable to disclose specific funding figures until an election is called, he said the policy platform will be given financial priority and stretches through this decade and beyond, not just this year or next. Tackling the brain-drain, the policy outlines a plan to introduce a database of all Australian researchers for business people living overseas to encourage them to return, including 1,000 new publicly and privately funded research fellowships.

Other highlights include "significant" increases in funding of universities and vocational education as well as changes to the current immigration policies to attract talent. This is in addition to ensuring nine out of 10 young Australians leave their teens with a year 12, or equivalent, qualification and making information and communications technology (ICT) literacy a core component of learning alongside literacy and numeracy.

Beazley has also called for a summit to implement a national IT strategy and a review of the impediments to the commercialization of Australian research. A spokesman for Information Technology Minister, Senator Richard Alston said all the issues identified in the strategy are already being addressed by this government through its multi-billion dollar Innovation Plan.

He listed the establishment of ICT Centres of Excellence, incubators and research commercialization initiatives as examples of the Federal Government's commitment to tackling an effective IT policy framework in Australia.

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