We are in the final stretch of 2022. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will be going into the Christmas break with a big win under his belt, and may even spare everyone else the end-of-year tradition of late night sittings, if the government can pass its signature IR reforms through the senate before 6pm on Thursday – but it has already been a busy week.
First of all – and possibly of great consequence to readers – the ANAO has made a submission to the recently-established Commonwealth procurement inquiry. The submission specifically calls out the government’s ‘most amended contract’ for IT outsourcing and suggests a full re-evaluation of whether the into Commonwealth Procurement Rules (CPRs) are fit for purpose. Stay tuned.
Ed Husic used a Press Club speech to launch the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund. Modelled on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the scheme was part of Labor’s election commitments and will combine loans, guarantees and equity investments to encourage domestic manufacturing. Up to $1 billion will be set aside for critical technologies and another $1 billion for ‘advanced manufacturing’.
In the not-so-big news corner, the DTA met with their counterparts at Japanese Digital Agency last week for talks on “developing ideal digital human resources, methodologies, and balancing short and long-term expectations,” which we assume refers to Japan’s digital minister Taro Kono recently ‘declaring war’ (his words) on floppy disks.
The results of the APS census are up. Home Affairs continues to stand out among the very large agencies for its ongoing slump in morale, but it is sunny spot for job stability. The annual State of the Service report provides a high level summary of the state of digital services starting on page 70.
We should also note that the government has managed to pass a sweep of bills with implications for the broader tech sector in the final week of the sitting calendar:
The lower house has agreed on amendments to establish a National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), and at the time of publication, the bill was moving through the Senate. The October Budget update set aside $27.5 million to purchase the backend IT infrastructure for the new entity.
Both chambers agreed on changes to the tax treatment of Electric Vehicles, that probably won’t start a revolution, but is expected to drive the second-hand EV market.
The parliament has also passed legislation to establish a High Speed Rail Authority to “advise on, plan and, with the consent of states and territories, construct a high speed rail system.” There was $18 million for the new entity in the recent Budget update. We are expecting lots of advice and planning, not much construction. As we have previously noted, this ‘perpetual election promise’ has been a recurring joke in the ABC’s public service spoof Utopia, which has just been commissioned for a new season in 2023!
STATE BY STATE
Victoria: Digital staffer elected The Andrews Government was returned in Victoria and the Premier has stated that the parliament will return in December. We note the election of Ryan Batchelor to the Legislative Council (Upper House) seat of South Metro. An accomplished economist and long-time Labor staffer, Batchelor has the distinction of attending the inaugural meeting of the Australian Digital Council (ADC) in September 2018 on behalf of former Victorian Minister Gavin Jennings.
NSW: Big drones, little drones for weeds We are suckers for a drone story and the NSW government has allocated $12 million over the next year for a weed eradication program in the Central West. It will provide local councils with (smaller) drones to help map weed infestations, and then “ultimately deploy larger drones to spray invasive plants from the air.”
NT: Big battery on track While the biggest news coming out of the NT this week is obviously Chok’s Place winning the Golden Bowl trophy at the 2022 Darwin International Laksa Festival, civil and building works are now complete on the $45 million Darwin-Katherine Battery Energy Storage System (DK BESS). The project is scheduled for completion next year.
‘Russian Google’ Searching for Sanctions Solutions
The Dutch parent company of Russia’s largest tech company, the search engine Yandex, is planning to sell its Russian businesses and develop new technologies overseas to avoid Western sanctions. Established some 15 years ago and often known as ‘Russia’s Google,’ in addition to its popular search browser, the firm also is active in a wide range of industries, including ride-hailing apps, self-driving cars, and cloud-computing services.
UK Communications Regulators Communique
The UK communications regulator, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have issued a joint statement on online safety and data protection. The two entities have pledged to work more closely together in anticipation of a new Online Safety Bill passing the UK parliament in 2023. Australian firms should pay attention to this new ‘regulatory romance’ as the Brits are dealing with similar data protection issues. The UK Information Commissioner John Edwards was recruited by Boris Johnson to a five-year term in January, after spending eight years as New Zealand Privacy Commissioner.