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Failure to compute — Australia's IT policy mess continues


By Robert Hudson, President, ITPA
Monday, 15 April, 2019


Failure to compute — Australia's IT policy mess continues

We now know that we will have a federal election on 18 May. In our next newsletter, we will look at the tech policies of the major parties — where they vary, where they’re largely aligned, and provide some feedback on those policies. Today, though, we’re going to keep looking backwards at history a little.

The nbn continues to be a mess. The federal Labor party recently came out with its policy, which has five key areas of focus:

  • A digital inclusion drive, aiming to increase broadband take-up.
  • Providing NBN Co with increased funding to improve internal wiring of homes with low speeds.
  • Better protecting businesses from long periods of nbn downtime.
  • Directing NBN Co to run trials of more fibre in the network.
  • Conducting an immediate review of the economics of the nbn.
     

Whilst improving digital inclusion (particularly among less-fortunate socioeconomic groups) is noble, and evaluations of economics will hopefully include addressing the ridiculous CVC pricing, more than 183,000 FTTN premises are now unable to achieve a 25 Mbps downstream connection speed (basically the minimum service speed now with the 12 Mbps service being dropped), and changes to in-house wiring are basically fiddling at the edges. Real solutions are needed — if FTTN can’t universally deliver base service speeds, alternatives need to be considered.

You may also remember the mandatory metadata retention Bill — it is now being reviewed, and ITPA will be making a submission. If you have any particular concerns that you’d like to see raised, or would like to participate in our submission, please do reach out.

As you’re almost certainly aware, the federal parliament more recently passed the “Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018” (often called the “Assistance and Access Bill 2018”, or #aabill on social media) into law late last year. This was despite even the PJCIS (itself chaired by an LNP party member) having concerns about it, the Labor Party having concerns with both the content and process by which it was put into place and industry feedback being almost universally against the notion of the Bill, let alone the technicalities of it.

Sadly, though, the #aabill wasn’t the only poor piece of technology-related legislation that has been rammed through the parliament lately.

Following on from the shocking tragedy that occurred in Christchurch in March, and despite years of tacit (and sometimes not so tacit) support for nationalistic violence and discrimination based on race and religion by politicians and the mainstream media, the finger was pointed at social media as the source of all evils, and yet another poorly thought-out piece of legislation (“Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Act 2019” — click here to read it in full — was passed. This was apparently so immediately necessary (apparently more necessary than stopping terrorist attacks at Christmas with legislation that didn’t take effect until January) that there was not even the pretence of consultation with industry.

Unsurprisingly, condemnation has been largely universal — not only is the legislation full of holes (terms left undefined, lack of limitations on exactly who can be fined/sued, etc), but simply because of what the government thinks is possible. “If they can write an algorithm to make sure that the ads they want you to see can appear on your mobile phone, then I’m quite confident they can write an algorithm to screen out hate content on social media platforms,” Scott Morrison is quoted as having said. Yet it is really not this simple at all. Writing an algorithm to send pre-produced content to a known (and predefined) audience is very different to preventing an unknown audience from seeing a previously unseen piece of footage or content — particularly where live streaming is involved.

Sadly, the Labor party waved this new legislation through as well — keen to be seen to be “tough on bad guys” — when, just like the LNP, they really have no actual concept of what they’re talking about.

It is about time that governments started to pay attention to expert advice, rather than soliciting it and ignoring it if it doesn’t suit their agendas (or even just not bothering to solicit it). ITPA is doing everything it can to gain inroads into both political parties and government departments. As a member of ITPA, you can do your part by writing to your local member (particularly with an election coming up) and making it clear to them that the recent legislative outcomes are far from satisfactory, and that you expect better if you’re going to vote for them.

The next five weeks or so are going to be very interesting and will shape the way Australia moves forward not only for the next three years, but well beyond that. Make sure that you make your opinion heard — either directly yourself, or by supporting our efforts (participate in our submission process, or become a financial member to help fund our efforts).

Robert Hudson

President, ITPA

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/bluebay2014

Information Technology Professionals Association (ITPA) is a not-for-profit organisation focused on continual professional development for its 18,700 members. To learn more about becoming an ITPA member, and the range of training opportunities, mentoring programs, events and online forums available, go to www.itpa.org.au.

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