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In other government ICT and digital news, 23 May 2023

by Jack Le Guay •
Free resource



This week, Queensland has a new digital minister in Mark Bailey, and the federal government is looking to implement Tell Us Once principles in emergency response and recovery. Senate budget estimates have begun amid continuing fall-out from PwC revelations and the Robodebt Royal Commission. Australia has updated its Critical Technologies list, while overseas the US government is looking at AI and XR tech.




Senate Estimates have begun in Canberra and will continue for the next fortnight.


The PwC crisis is evolving rapidly, with all sides of politics pushing for greater transparency and asking about potential penalties. The Australian Financial Review reported that Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill will use Estimates to attempt to identify beneficiaries (including 14 US-based tech companies) of the tax leaks, Greens Senator Barbara Pocock is calling for a ban on new government contracts with the firm, while Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg is calling for an expanded review of ASIC’s oversight of the accounting industry. The broader Senate inquiry into the public sector’s use of consulting services will continue to hold hearings after Estimates, with a full report expected by 26 September 2023.


The release of the Robodebt Royal Commission report, currently due at the end of June, will be delayed by a week so that its findings can be considered by the new the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), which will commence on 1 July. The Saturday Paper reported that Commissioner Catherine Holmes wrote to the Attorney-General asking for the delay.

The Critical Technologies list, established in 2021, has been updated following consultation in 2022. The list categories have been changed slightly to reflect changing government priorities. For example, “energy and environment” is now “clean energy generation and storage technologies”. There is a new category of “autonomous systems, robotics, positioning, timing and sensing”, and the previous “AI, computing and communications” category has been split into “AI technologies” e.g. machine learning, neural networks and natural language processing; and “advanced ICTs” e.g. data analytics, 5G/6G, cyber security and “virtual worlds”.

The Labor Party is currently seeking suggestions for potential changes to its national policy platform. Motions will be debated at its August 2023 National Conference. Changes that require the establishment of new entities and agencies will have ICT implications. The most recent policy platform, from March 2021, included commitments to establish an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Coal Workforce Authority.


the formation of the Quad Investors Network has been announced to “foster cooperation, collaboration, and co-investment into critical technologies and supply chain resilience” across the region. Australian Investor Network members include former Telstra CEO Andy Penn and former Australian Ambassadors to the US Arthur Sinodinos and Joe Hockey.




The Victorian Budget came down on Tuesday 23 May, Intermedium will provide full analysis very soon. Last week’s awarding of the $1.7 billion myki payment system upgrade to Conduent has been contested by the opposition, citing issues with the company’s roll-outs in other cities.


The Tasmanian Budget will be presented on Thursday 25 May. Tasmania’s inability to generate sufficient own-source revenue will likely shape the budget as it deals with an ongoing housing crisis, a need to fund health and other services to Australia’s oldest population, and its laggard position with respect to digital government readiness and maturity.


Michael Coutts-Trotter will formally be appointed as the NSW Treasury Secretary, a role that he has been performing in an acting capacity for the past month. He has led five NSW government departments, including the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Communities and Justice, Family and Community Services, Education, and Finance and Services (now Customer Service).




The US Department of Justice has charged a former Apple engineer with stealing documents containing the source code for the software and hardware behind the company’s self-driving vehicles and fleeing to China.


An investigation by the USA’s 60 Minutes suggests that ‘price gouging’ by US Department of Defense contractors is widespread, with little competition between suppliers. The report featured Shay Assad, a former Director of Defense Pricing, who stated that the “accountability system is broken”. 60 Minutes noted that the Department had announced its largest-ever budget this year, roughly AU$1.27 trillion.


In testimony to a US Senate committee considering AI regulation, New York University professor Gary Marcus has issued a stark warning that the rapidly emerging technology could (easily) create sophisticated fake news and persuasive lies at a scale that will be able to manipulate elections and bring down governments. It comes weeks after the Republican Party released a dystopian 30 second video that it describes as “an AI-generated look into the country's possible future.”


A bipartisan Bill has been introduced into the US Congress in a bid to create a 5-year grant program to support skills training and education that makes use of extended reality (XR) technologies (e.g. augmented and virtual reality). The Immersive Technology for the American Workforce Act has been praised by the US XR industry lobby, who have been working with the politicians responsible for introducing the bill.

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