Qld treasurer keeps hands off govt IT spend

Spending target cuts for ICT won't be issued to agencies, treasurer tells industry

Queensland treasurer, Andrew Fraser, has pledged not to dictate specific cuts or targets for government ICT activities, despite a floundering economy in the face of recent natural disasters striking the state.

Addressing members of the Australia Industry Information Association (AIIA) at a lunch Friday, Fraser said ICT had played a pivotal role in guiding the state through floods and Cyclone Yasi during January. Pointing to Cyclone Tracy which hit Queensland in 1974 as a point of difference, he said the different types of communication used during the January disasters - including social media, an emergency message alert system and his own personal BlackBerry - proved important to surviving the state’s problems.

He also said ICT would likely continue to play a key role in rebuilding the state’s economy.

“Whenever you’re in constrained budget circumstances, the reality is there’s no easy choices,” he said. “But you’ve got to be careful in government all the time not to cut off your nose to spite your face.

“There’s not a particular target that we would ever set to agencies about what they should do with their ICT spend and in fact there are probably investments that can be realised in terms of providing for more efficient use of government services that therefore add to the ability.”

Fraser said existing uses of ICT in mining, tourism and revenue activities in the state were examples of the continued need for technology to help the floundering economy.

Despite plans to grow the state’s economy by 3.75 per cent over 2011, the floods and cyclone in January forced the state government to revise growth targets to 1 per cent. At the time, former Queensland minister for public works, Robert Schwarten, advised that cuts may be necessary to government ICT projects but made no specific announcements at the time.

It is believed Schwarten’s successor, newly appointed Simon Finn, attended the AIIA event but did not speak. Fraser described Finn as a self-confessed early adopter and a valuable addition to the state cabinet.

Fraser used his address to industry to urge a “reimagination” of Queensland as part of the rebuilding efforts, an opportunity he said should also convince people of the need for a National Broadband Network (NBN) as part of 21st century economic infrastructure.

Current debates over the viability of the NBN mirrored those of coal railways 120 years ago, he said, but both were equally important to the state economy.

“We seem as a nation to be unconcerned about the fact that a whole different type of export commodity, the ideas that we generate, are constrained by the economic infrastructure of the future,” he said. “We don’t have an NBN in this station, whereas our competitor countries, the trading partners that  we’re going to need to compete with, are moving into that space ahead of us.

“We seem to spend last year as a state grieving for a coal railway, yet we’re too timid to grasp the potential of he future of the economic infra of the 21st century.”

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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