Keeping National honest

Labour's new ICT spokeswoman, Clare Curran, relishes her opportunity

Clare Curran, Labour’s new ICT spokeswoman, has made the first important technical decision of her new role — opting for a Parliamentary BlackBerry Bold over the new BlackBerry Storm.

Previously a Palm Treo user, Curran says she’s brave in some areas, “but you’ve got to be cautious about new products as they hit the market”.

Curran comes out of the communications industry, or PR as it’s more commonly known. Most recently, she was running her own agency in Dunedin, doing work for the University of Otago, in Australia with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and, most controversially, a short-term contract at the Ministry for the Environment that led to a State Services report on the selection process used to appoint her.

Curran also brushed up against controversy in her run for Parliament, being chosen by Labour for Dunedin South over former cabinet minister David Benson-Pope.

Curran says she has been working in the private sector for the last 20 years, including running her own small business. She says she has a lot of interest in areas such as economic growth and social justice.

She says she’s used to working for organisations with limited budgets and finding creative solutions to problems.

While it’s still early days, ideas about her agenda in the ICT portfolio also appear to be firming up.

Curran says there is now a lot of uncertainty around the new government’s broadband plans and the future of Labour’s Broadband Investment Fund (BIF), with 36 applicants awaiting further consideration of their plans. These include, she says, some “very good proposals”.

“Within the industry there are high expectations and a high degree of urgency and a need to get things moving,” she says.

Curran says there are a lot of questions left about what National’s is actually planning to do.

“As hard as I’ve looked, I can’t find any detail,” she says. “It’s a key plank. One would expect they’d move quickly.”

Curran does not accept the fact the government has been in office only a few weeks as an excuse, saying National has a 100-day programme and is already pushing through legislation for tax and KiwiSaver changes.

“They had bills to put on the table with that,” she says.

“Any policy should have a reasonable amount of detail for people to be able to make a judgement on it.”

But the ICT industry is about a lot more than broadband. Curran says she is interested in understanding the implications of convergence, which she says is a “really interesting and exciting subject”. She also mentions content, safety and security as well as education to build digital literacy, both in schools and workplaces.

“This is happening organically, but it needs more effort,” she says.

Growth and boosting productivity are also issues she wants to tackle as well as social issues such as sustainability. She is looking forward to meeting industry participants and stakeholders.

Curran describes her personal style as “determined”. She says she’s a big picture person that “likes to get things right”. She’s a team player, she says, and a listener — but she also likes to get things done.

She came into politics, she says, because she was driven by issues.

“It wasn’t part of the career plan,” she says, before heading off to listen to ICT minister Steven Joyce’s maiden speech.

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