The results of Western Australia’s upcoming election could have significant impacts for the State’s ICT future, with business-as-usual expected from the favoured Liberal incumbents against a comprehensive ICT policy alternative being put forward by Labor.
The polls are predicting a Liberal re-election when WA casts its ballots on 9 March. The most recent Galaxy poll shows the Liberals and Nationals combined are leading Labor 56-44 on a two-party preferred basis, with 43 per cent of preferred primary votes going to the Liberals, 35 per cent to Labor, 7 per cent to the Nationals, and 9 per cent to the Greens. Newspoll has generated almost identical results, 57-43, on a two-party preferred basis.
In the event of a Liberal win, ICT is likely to continue along its current trajectory, which features the decommissioning of shared services. Around 45 agencies are expected to transition out of the Office of Shared Services and return corporate services in-house by mid-2013.
A Government-wide shared services scheme was introduced in 2003 by the then Labor Government, according to an estimated $82 million plan to consolidate finance, human resources, payroll and procurement functions across State agencies by 2007. It was decommissioned by the Barnett Liberal Government in 2011, after transitioning only one third of agencies and running considerably overtime and over budget at a net cost of $345 million.
Beyond the shared services roll-back however, the Barnett Government has yet to put forward a comprehensive whole-of-government ICT strategy, making it one of only two jurisdictions (alongside NT) remaining without a coordinated ICT plan.
By contrast a whole-of-government ICT strategy is likely to be fast-tracked in the event of a Labor win.
It would likely include other key branches of the WA Labor platform such as:
- A $1 million commitment to installing Wi-Fi on Perth trains as part of its $3.8 billion eight-year Metronet rail plan; and
- $20 million over four years for the implementation of a wireless network operating system and Standard Operating Environment 4 (SOE4) across 200 regional primary schools.
The Labor Party has already announced its intentions to establish a specialised ICT division, the Office of Innovation and Technology, which would oversee the development of an ICT strategy in the event of a Labor win.
The Office would have “responsibility for developing and implementing state-wide ICT, telecommunications and Knowledge Economy strategies”, according to the party’s election platform. It would be established as part of the Department of State Development and complement the functions of the Office of e-Government. (Under the existing Government, ICT functions are managed under the Department of Finance.)
If a change of government does occur, it is also likely that machinery of government changes will take place to reflect Labor priorities in the State’s departmental structures, and if recent changes of government in other states can be taken as a guide, the 2013-14 budget would be delayed until late in the third quarter of the calendar year.
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