The change of leadership in Victoria will impact on government ICT projects, priorities and the shape of the market. While ICT issues and policy did not feature prominently in the Victorian election campaign, there are key signals about the ICT landscape under a Coalition Government, including an expanded role for the Centre for IT Excellence (CenITex), leverage of the NBN and altered ICT grants arrangements.
Ted Baillieu and his Liberal National Coalition will now form Government following the concession of defeat by the former Premier John Brumby on Monday 29 November. The State election, held on Saturday 27 November, resulted in the Coalition securing 44 seats – one short of the 45 needed to form a majority government –with a significant lead in the remaining electorate of Bentleigh. By contrast, the Australian Labor Party won 41 seats and experienced a swing of 6.3 per cent against the incumbent Government.
The Coalition did not take a comprehensive ICT policy platform to the election, but ICT is an integral part of the Baillieu Plan for Stronger Industry and More Jobs (the Plan) released during the campaign, which “recognises the importance of the ICT industry to the Victorian economy and its capacity to improve the delivery of government services”.
The Plan explains that “the Liberal Nationals Coalition will ensure that the industry receives the leadership and support it deserves while restoring responsibility for project management to the portfolio”.
In terms of leadership, the Coalition intends to establish a sub-committee of Cabinet which includes the Premier, Treasurer, Minister for Finance and Minister for ICT. The sub-committee will oversee major Government ICT projects.
The Coalition has also pledged to provide greater stability and accountability in Ministerial responsibility for ICT, criticising the previous Brumby Government for a perceived lack of transparency and ‘revolving-door ministry’, an allusion to the fact Victoria has seen four separate ICT Ministers since 2002.
The Plan flags the establishment of an ‘ICT Industry Plan’ to sustain and support the sector. While details have not been released, it is expected that the development of this industry plan will “establish firm targets for ICT skill development, investment and export and the development of ICT infrastructure in Victoria”.
The new Government also intends to “develop the capability for the Centre for IT Excellence (CenITex) to provide high-level ICT strategy, planning and project management advice to assist agencies in developing and managing ICT projects”. However, this policy idea is not fully explained in the Plan and it is unclear how quickly or how far this significant increase in the scope of responsibilities for CenITex would occur.
Despite the Federal Coalition’s position on the Government’s National Broadband Network (NBN), the Victorian Coalition has pledged to “pursue opportunities for Victorian ICT companies with the NBN project and press the Commonwealth to upgrade Victoria’s broadband capacity in the interim”.
A Coalition Government will also restructure the award of ICT grants, simplifying the existing grants streams and making grants conditional on meeting sustainable employment targets. A further requirement will be placed on agencies and project developers to comply with best-practice guides, including the Victorian Auditor-General’s guide for public sector ICT investment.
It is l unclear whether the Victorian ICT Action Plan launched by the Brumby Government in October 2010– which was warmly received by industry – will be abandoned or taken onboard by the incoming Government. Coalition ICT spokesperson Gordon Rich-Phillips reportedly showed disdain for the Action Plan upon its release, stating that “there is not a lot new in it”, which perhaps suggests it will be scrapped or amended at the very least.
While not relating specifically to ICT, the Coalition will also introduce a number of measures which may have a significant impact on agencies and suppliers in the ICT sector. According to the Plan, it will establish “KPIs and benchmarks for government department procurement performance”.
Furthermore, the Coalition pledges to deliver “on commitments to give Victorian business full, fair and reasonable opportunities in public and private tenders”.