Back when Kim Beazley was leading the ALP, Senator Kate Lundy had the position of Shadow Minister for IT. It was a position she excelled in, and we'd like to see her manage the portfolio full time. Here are some of the reasons why:
For starters, she's not afraid to call out the big boys. Lundy showed time and time again that she was willing and able to take Telstra to task for not only dragging its feet in the development of a proper broadband infrastructure in this country, but also for doing its best to make money from the fact. From a 2002 post to her blog:
Public comments from Telstra to date shed some light, with Telstra spokespeople unequivocally citing cost cutting as the motivation. Pair gain technology was perfect. There were minimal infrastructure costs but rent could be charged on a whole new line, and voila: maximum revenue generation and bigger profits.
Telstra knows that if it cannot physically deliver this service then no company can. What good is the emphasis on interconnection being the key to competition in the consumer access network when there is such a technical limitation?
So, regardless of what line-sharing agreements are made with other carriers or what ACCC declarations are made, no other carrier can get an ADSL service to those people either; it is physically impossible. Citizens are left with expensive alternatives like satellite, cable modem or even ISDN. For most the costs are prohibitive.
As more people demand broadband access, the deficiencies of Telstra’s copper network will be increasingly exposed. This will fuel speculation about the long-term value of this network and sharpen public awareness about the need for alternative infrastructure.
Not only does Lundy openly criticise Telstra, but reading through the post clearly illustrates that she understands the technology and the technical issues involved with rolling out broadband.
We also like that she's a self-taught geek who's passionate about technology. In an interview last October with Laurie Wilson, she outlined how she became passionate about online and technology in general:
Or you could just read the relevant transcript section here:
LW: Now I’m sure many people in Canberra, and perhaps some outside Canberra may remember as a shadow minister you were among other things a spokesman for sport and recreation but the area that many people might not realise that you take a particular interest in, that’s become your passion is IT, information technology, the internet, how did that come about?
KL: Oh IT is, it’s something that’s an intuitive thing for me, when I worked at the union, because I didn’t go to university by the time I found out about the internet was when it was breaking out of academia and breaking out into the public domain and applications like mosaic and some of the early browsers. The world wide web was to me a revelation, because my work had been in I suppose a social entity, a trade union, what inspired me most was the opportunity the internet had to empower people with information, and inform them, and allow a level of engagement in their communities, in society, with government that was unprecedented and even though it was early days I found that incredibly inspiring and I made a very strategic decision early on after I was preselected that this was an area that I really wanted to engage in the public policy debate about. So it was, you know I’m self taught on computers and I’ve done a lot of work with computers at the union and with desktop publishing, so it was really a gut feeling that this was going to be important to us as a society in the future and I needed to be there and be part of the conversation.
LW: Now I look back at your maiden speech in parliament, and I want to quote from that, you said ‘information and how it’s communicated are major determinates of power within our society’ and you went on to say ‘the importance of public policy relating to the use of credible information sources and its increasingly complex delivery technologies can not be underestimated.’ Thirteen years ago, that was pretty prescient; you were certainly looking down the track and seeing where things were going.
KL: I was already thinking about these issues back then. I felt very strongly that it was going to change our lives the way that communication technologies where developing, and I still think, and I mentioned the national broadband network earlier that is a sort of perfect example of the sort of massive investment through a public policy initiative that needs to be made if we as a society are going to share in the benefits of technological development it doesn’t happen by itself, we know that it tends to consolidate around the few who control it and I think that it’s really about applying democratic principles and social access principles to technology.
Then of course there's the Internet filter issue. She's the only member of the Labor party who has publicly stood up to argue that a mandatory ISP-level filter, as proposed by Senator Conroy and KRudd, is a bad idea.
When the Rudd Labor opposition reaffirmed the policy on a mandatory internet filter prior to the 2007 federal election, it was largely a conceptual policy that sought to protect people who felt vulnerable and exposed to unwanted online content, that in other mediums had some form of censorship applied. The details still had to be developed. It was also contingent on an ISP filter actually being effective and workable.
At the time, I took comfort in the seemingly well-established ‘fact’ that such a filter was not technically feasible and that any reasonable test would establish this ‘fact’ yet again. Certainly at the time of the former Howard Government’s notorious Online Services Bill in 1998, studies showed that such filters were neither cost effective nor technically feasible.
So my plan is to advocate within my party an approach which recognises the openess principle that underpins the Internet as I have argued for in the past.
As I said in my previous post, my preferred approach is providing parents with a range of tools to make the right the choices for the safety of their children, so from my personal perspective, an active (mandatory) choice creates a specific opportunity of engagement for the government with parents and internet users to consider the other risks that the filter cannot address, be it peer to peer (unwanted/illegal) content sharing, cyber-bullying or identity theft.
This pro-active engagement offers government a realistic and practical platform of trust with the citizens they are trying to assist by making the internet safer by setting clear expectations if they opt-in. ISP’s could, if they assessed there was interest in the market, offer a range of filter options, again providing an informed choice for internet users.
Is Senator Lundy for or against a filter and why?
I do not believe a mandatory filter will achieve the policy goals stated and I agree that mandatory filtering creates an issue around free expression and business confidence. However, I know there are many Australians, particularly those with children who would choose a filter option given the choice and I think the low uptake of such filtering solutions in the general community to date has largely been an issue of education and that people have to know the option exists to seek it out and enable it through their ISP. Unfortunately we currently have quite a low level of technical knowledge in this country and it has been very disempowering for many parents who want to know what to do.
I believe that the best path forward is one of mandatory choice where as part of their normal interaction with an ISP all subscribers are provided information about filtering so they can make an informed choice (to filter or to not filter), and at that point we have a fantastic opportunity to provide further information and resources about general Internet safety best practices. This option ought to be changeable at any point and re-asked at subsequent service renewals.
It's pretty clear - Lundy knows her tech. She's passionate about the digital economy, and is brave enough to fight for what she believes in. She doesn't support the government's proposed internet filter, and she's never ever mentioned spams and scams coming through a portal. If the new Prime Minister truly wants the best for the country, then she needs to give Senator Lundy the BCDE Portfolio.