Labor hits back at ICT trade deficit

IT opposition spokeswoman Senator Kate Lundy today said the rapid growth of Australia's ICT trade deficit is a graphic symbol of the Howard Government's indifference to the local ICT industry.

Launching Labor's ICT policy she said Australia's ICT deficit in 2002 hit $14.4 billion, this is equivalent to 65 percent of the current account deficit. "This is why Labor has identified Australia's ICT industry as central to achieving Labor's vision for traditional and emerging industries in an innovative Australia. ICT is a foundation of nation building in the 21st century," Senator Lundy said.

According to a statement released by Lundy, a Latham Labor Government will:

  • Promote Australia's ICT capability internationally to increase export market access and encourage investment.
  • Introduce an effective government purchasing policy to ensure that Australian ICT small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) can participate competitively in government contracts.
  • Develop a 10 year Industry Strategy for software and digital content to maximise the potential of this sector and increase export opportunities and growth.
  • Continue funding BITS incubators at current levels and will negotiate expansion of the types of incubatee companies eligible to improve prospects of sustainability in the future.
  • Strengthen the National ICT Centre of Excellence (NICTA) by encouraging NICTA to develop commercialisation strategies and strengthen ties with Australian SMEs.
  • Foster stronger relationships between ICT related CRCs, CSIRO, DSTO, NICTA, ARC-recipients, incubators and industry.
  • Encourage a more entrepreneurial culture in Australian education and research institutions through the inclusion of business administration-oriented units in ICT courses with the aim of improving the commercialisation prospects for ideas and intellectual property created in Australia.
  • Support ICT skills development and stronger relationships between the ICT sector and education institutions to ensure skills development serves the needs of the Australian ICT industry in a timely way.
  • Support and promote ICT careers for women. Federal Labor is concerned that only around 20% of people studying in ICT and related studies are women, and that this percentage is decreasing.
  • Transfer all resources relating to policy and programs for ICT innovation and industry development in the Department of Communications IT and the Arts to an ICT Section in the Department of Industry to sharpen the focus, maximise synergy with generic industry programs and improve administrative efficiency.

A response to Labor's policy announcement from the Federal Government will follow shortly.

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