A Queensland government reshuffle has spawned a new IT policy portfolio reporting directly to Premier Peter Beattie after a turbulent six months which has seen the state's leader at loggerheads with the local software industry over comments its wares came second to those of SAP.
Chris Cummins, the former emergency services minister and a qualified electrician, will fill the new ICT Policy role, while also ministering to the needs of small business and multicultural affairs.
Queensland government sources told Computerworld Cummins will work closely with Minister for Public Works and Housing, Rob Schwarten who currently writes the cheques for Queensland's large ICT projects. Schwarten will remain as the chair of the state's ICT working group which oversees local industry participation in Queensland government IT procurement.
Schwarten became chair of the Queensland ICT working group in June after the local software industry gave the Beattie government a public caning claiming it had been unjustly spurned in favour of multinational vendors in the awarding of state government contracts.
Local IT observers say the new IT policy portfolio will act as a circuit breaker between Queensland's 56,000-strong local IT industry, the premier and Schwarten. Cummins is understood to have organized a meeting with the ICT working group less than a week after his appointment.
Cummins told Computerworld he is looking to meet with relevant peak bodies and industry leaders in coming weeks, adding he sees great potential in Queensland's niche ICT skills, specifically e-security and computer game development.
"But we also need to be able to identify and provide the best possible assistance to these emerging and existing industry segments," Cummins said. "That's why, as part of the ICT strategy, we are about to embark on a study of Queensland's ICT strengths.
"Here in Queensland we have high quality and highly skilled people, strong universities and first-class infrastructure. I'm keen to see that used to create more Queensland ICT jobs and businesses."
Paul Campbell, chair of ICT industry representative group Software Queensland, welcomed Cummins' appointment, adding he believed the premier is "now genuine" about industry concerns after "whingeing for six months about procurement policy".
IT spared in NSW govt reshuffle, pressure increases
In a week that has seen the NSW premier, treasurer and planning minister all quit politics in a few days, Labor's state factional powerbroker and Commerce Minister John Della Bosca will retain position and command and control of government IT.
However, Della Bosca is likely to come under increased pressure to give IT vendors supplying state government a serious financial haircut after it was revealed NSW state coffers may drift into the red.
The state has already issued its first official guidance on using open source in government, with the release of a panel of approved penguin-flavoured suppliers for public projects in the 'premier state'.