It has been an extraordinary week, with allegations of compromised surveillance systems all over Canberra, surveillance spy balloons being spotted over North America, news of an investigation into a billion-dollar IT project overrun, and a new RegTech unit in Canberra.
Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones announced an independent inquiry into a billion dollar overspend on the ATO Modernising Business Registers (MBR) program. We have been waiting for further information since he tweeted about this in July – there was no mention of it in the October Budget update (and it was not listed among the Contingent Liabilities for the Treasury portfolio in Budget Paper 1). It must be the biggest ICT project overrun since the WA Shared Services debacle.
Jones also wished Australians a Happy Valentine's Day by noting that more than $40 million was lost to romance scams in 2022. There were 3,698 reports made to the ACCC’s Scamwatch in 2022, up eight per cent compared to the previous year.
The federal government is going to need to replace several thousand surveillance cameras, intercoms, electronic entry systems and video recorders for more than 250 departments and agencies, after concerns were raised about Chinese-made devices in use all over Canberra. The software used by Hikvision has been in the firing line by both privacy and human rights experts for some time now. New Zealand may be the next country needing to upgrade its surveillance equipment.
Fresh from his work supporting the myGov user audit, digital whizz Jordan Hatch is happy to share that he has “joined the Regulatory Reform Division at the Department of Finance, leading a new branch for Regulatory Technology and Innovation."
Since our last update the Robodebt Royal Commission has claimed its first political scalp with the resignation of former Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge. Lidia Thorpe’s split from the Greens will be of less interest to the government ICT market; though Ed Husic will be soliciting her support for the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund.
The number of complaints about telco companies rose by 9.9% in the last three months of 2022 off the back of the Optus data breach. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) reported 17,903 complaints between October and December.
We will be keeping an eye on any digital and data developments that emerge from Senate Estimates this week. On Monday we learned the Department of Parliamentary Services is conducting a market scan for portable videoconferencing technology.
STATE BY STATE
As we have noted in separate articles this week:
- NSW has released its 2022-23 Budget Half Yearly review seven weeks out from the 25 March election
- The NSW Auditor-General has issued another highly critical assessment of the state’s cyber security arrangements
- Tasmania is moving forward with stage one of their myServiceTas digital service portal.
In news that will please both low income earners and the robotic process automation (RPA) sector, the New Zealand’s cabinet has agreed to lift the hourly minimum wage by 7%, in line with inflation. The current rate of $21.20 will increase by $1.50 to $22.70, effective from 1 April.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has unveiled significant Machinery of Government changes, creating three new departments and shuffling several permanent secretaries. The UK Institute for Government describes the shake-up as “the largest change to Whitehall since at least 2007.” Most noteworthy is the creation of a new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), and the dropping of 'Digital’ from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DDCMS); which is now simply the DMCS.
This week’s US news cycle started with the State of the Union and ended with the Super Bowl, but has been dominated by sightings of spy balloons and curiously, an “octagonal structure” with “strings attached” to it. Australian experts are confident that any Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) approaching our shores will be spotted by the Jindaleee radar network, which is also used for detecting illegal smuggling and unlicensed fishing.