The first priority of the new shadow communications ministers, Tony Smith, should be to consult with industry and develop positive, constructive policies on the National Broadband Network (NBN), according to telecommunications analyst, Paul Budde.
Speaking to Computerworld, Budde said that former shadow communications minister Nick Minchin term had been characterised by politicking and a lack of engagement with the industry.
“The whole situation is that we are desperately waiting on some constructive discussion and constructive polices from the opposition on this very large national investment and basically the opposition isn’t involved in the discussion at all which I think is a total disgrace,” he said.
“If you are going to have these sorts of massive investments in the national interest then it is absolutely essential that the whole country becomes involved in the discussion. It is very sad that we miss out on positive and constructive comment from the opposition.”
Budde said the Opposition needed to return to the spirit of bipartisanship which was evident under the Howard era with Helen Coonan as communications minister and Stephen Conroy as the shadow minister
“They disagreed, but from an industry and consumer point of view... we saw bipartisan support for broadband reform,” he said. “Why isn’t that the case anymore? Oppose, but for Heaven’s sake, come with constructive opposition.”
Looking at the priorities for Smith in the new role, Budde said the opposition needed to formulate serious policies and visions around e-health and e-education to be delivered over the NBN.
“Discussion on the NBN also needs to be broadened out to people from the utilities companies, healthcare and education sectors because this isn’t just infrastructure for telecoms companies, it’s infrastructure for all these sectors. We need to apply a trans-sector approach.
“These are all issues that the opposition could bite their teeth into and debate with the government – 'why don’t you have ideas on these, here are ours’,” he said.
“I would like to invite the new minister to engage with the industry and listen and sit down with the industry and Nick Minchin didn’t do that. It would be great if Tony would sit down, then start to look at policies – undermining isn’t the way forward.”
In late November after Minchin stepped down from the role, Budde told Computerworld the industry "couldn’t get a worse shadow communications minister".