When it comes to technology, the Coalition has failed to effectively sell its policies as a strong vision for Australia’s future. Fortunately for them, it probably won’t matter when the nation votes tomorrow.
From Perth to Sydney and Darwin to Hobart, Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has spoken with plenty of IT industry heavyweights. He listens to the key players, speaks their language and knows their names.
By contrast, Shadow Communications Minister, Tony Smith, lives up to his title and has barely been seen by the IT industry or journalists. He almost never visits industry events and religiously avoids the media like the plague, instead relying on former Optus executive, Paul Fletcher, to take the tough questions.
In the debates and interviews that Smith has fronted, he’s been slammed for offering a solution that lacks detail with some industry critics claiming it’ll be outdated in under a decade.
But at the end of the day the IT industry is a very poor swinger of votes.
The Government has tried to sell Australia on a vision for the future: one where broadband is lightning fast and rural patients can get looked at by doctors over the Internet.
However, the election thus far has been grounded in the now. Illegal immigration has been a massive issue along with economic management and Australia’s public debt.
The Liberal Party’s attack ads have helped shape the debate around these topics and the Government hasn’t fought back effectively. Throughout the campaign, people have been distracted by ‘the real Julia’, Kevin Rudd, damaging cabinet leaks and hugely unpopular State Governments.
When it comes to the big-ticket tech item of this election, the National Broadband Network is getting an effective kicking from the Coalition on the finance front. Rather than help the Government, the NBN and its $43 billion cost has become part of an anchor.
Conroy’s determination to get on with the job hasn’t helped the case. He’s said he’ll never offer a business case or cost-benefit analysis to the public because no-one but the Liberal Party cares.
But here’s the rub – people do care. If the average voter wants to save up for a house or start a small business they need a detailed plan before they get a single dollar. It may be simplistic to compare a mortgage application to a cost-benefit analysis, but that’s how it’s being translated on the street.
Nobody thinks the Coalition’s plan will offer better Internet compared to the NBN and very few people think $6.3 billion is enough to do what Smith is claiming. He’s also being somewhat hypocritical because he’s made no promise to release a cost-benefit analysis or business case of his plan.
But when tomorrow comes voters will be more focused on the level of financial risk between the plans, rather than their potential for helping Australia’s destiny. It’s $43 billion vs. $6.3 billion and that’s the bottom line.