Cabinet meeting rules Iemma out of CeBIT, Coonan to open show

In a break with tradition, a Cabinet meeting - and not a snub - is ruling the NSW Premier from opening the CeBIT trade show

For the first time since its launch in 2002, CeBIT Australia, which is held in Sydney, will not be opened by the NSW Premier. The Federal Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, will instead open the show.

Both Premier Morris Iemma and his minister for State Development, Ian MacDonald - whose department contributes financially to the show -- will bypass the opening of the CeBIT trade show which opens on May 1. Iemma has instead arranged a meeting with his new Cabinet prior to the resumption of Parliament on May 8.

"The NSW government is very proud to have CeBIT in Sydney but at the end of the day the Cabinet is scheduled to meet that day and the Premier has a state to run," said a spokesman from Iemma's office.

The spokesperson said not much could have been done about it.

"In the lead up to the election no commitments were entered into the Premier's diary because it didn't exist. So regardless of how long in advance there was notification, until such time as after the election the Premier's diary was not constructed."

The spokesperson said any suggesting the premier's non attendance was a snub were "absurd".

"At the end of the day Cabinet is meeting and the following week the parliament will return for the first sitting session of the new parliament so the Cabinet will be working through a busy agenda of items to go to parliament."

Late on Friday, Senator Helen Coonan's department announced that Senator Coonan would be opening and attending the event.

"Minister Coonan, being the Communications Minister, is probably more appropriate than Morris Iemma to open it," said a spokeswoman from Coonan's office. "She is looking forward to it."

According to Jackie Taranto, managing director of Hannover Fairs, Macdonald will still be hosting a pre-opening event the evening before the show kicks off.

Taranto said this year she was bringing down Christian Wulff, a prominent German politician, and a possible future Chancellor, to the show. Wulff is also a member of the German state of Lower Saxony, which itself is a shareholder in Deutsche Messe, the group that ultimately runs the CeBIT shows.

She said Wulff has been scheduled to meet with Prime Minister John Howard, Gary Nairn, federal minister of state and e-government, and QLD acting Premier Anna Bligh, and Robert Forton, the QLD minister of public works and IT.

"We are still working with Morris Iemma's office to facilitate a meeting [with Wulff] while he's here ... he [Wulff] will meet people in the New South Wales government."

(Additional reporting by Liz Tay.)

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