The Australian Greens party has picked up its first House of Representatives seat in a general electionwith Adam Bandt’s victory in Lindsay Tanner’s former electorate of Melbourne. The Greens have also secured the balance of power in the Senate, with 4 new upper-house members, including first-ever Senators from Queensland and Victoria (although the newly elected Senators will not take up their positions until 1 July 2011). This success will take the total number of Greens in the Senate to nine.
Greens National Campaign Coordinator Ebony Bennett has highlighted the political influence the Greens may now wield. “This gives us the power to shape the agenda of the new Government and achieve real outcomes,” she said in an email on Monday 23 August.
So where do the Greens stand on ICT policy?
The Greens have been ardent supporters of Labor’s $43 billion National Broadband Network (NBN). At the Australian Computer Society’s ICT Policy Forum at the National Press Club on August 10, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam expressed his enthusiasm for the project, describing it as an “extraordinary piece of public infrastructure”.
In a statement issued on July 22, Senator Ludlam said the NBN is “exactly the sort of long-term investment we should be making to give Australia some kind of future beyond the mining boom”.
However, the Greens have voiced strong opposition to the Government’s plans to eventually sell its stake in NBN Co. In his July media release, Senator Ludlam argued the NBN “should absolutely stay in public hands so that we don’t see another repeat of the debacle that followed the privatisation of Telstra”, a view he maintained at the election ICT forum.
The Greens have been broadly supportive of Labor’s e-health agenda. While the party has not proposed e-health policies of its own, it emphasised the policy area as a priority in its response to the Australian Nurses Federation’s election survey.
“The Greens support establishing an e-health system to enhance patient care, as long as the privacy of healthcare consumers is protected,” the document says.
In June the Greens voted in favour of the Healthcare Identifiers Bill, the first major e-health reform put forward by the Labor Government.
The Greens have developed their own cyber security policy in opposition to the Government’s proposed mandatory ISP level filter. The policy proposes using the $40.8 million allocated by the Government to this policy area and redirecting it into various initiatives, including:
- Greater research into online risks, especially cyber-bullying, and effective combative measures;
- Strengthening cyber crime law enforcement capability through increased funding to cyber crime units and developing an online single portal for reporting cyber crime;
- Introducing an obligation on the part of ISPs to offer home-based filtering to customers; and
- Investing in online media literacy programs through schools, universities and public libraries.
Green ICT and other initiatives
The Greens are pioneering interest in a number of ICT initiatives. On open-source software and, unsurprisingly, green IT measures, the Greens are well ahead of the major parties.
At the election ICT forum, Senator Ludlam emphasised generally the compatibility of ICT with the Greens’ “vision for a sustainable Australia”. With increased political power, the Greens will undoubtedly be putting pressure on whichever party forms government to introduce aspects of the Green agenda.
In early August, the Australian Government ICT Sustainability Plan 2010 – 2015 was released. Given the heightened influence of the Greens in the coming government, this plan will take on even more importance.