Cunliffe still in ICT seat — now at Cabinet table

IT and telecomms portfolios retained by Cunliffe

While ministers are shuffled around the front bench for the new government, IT and communications portfolios have stayed in the hands of David Cunliffe, who gets a slight promotion from outside to inside Cabinet.

He also collects the portfolios of immigration minister and associate minister of Economic Development, which could make for some interesting synergies or even conflicts, given that the skills needs of the industry create some pressure to bring in experienced overseas staff.

The MED has been known to espouse views in conflict with the Commerce Commission on telecommunications regulation. After former minister Paul Swain received the commission's advice not to unbundle the local loop it was to the MED he turned for further analysis.

When MED pointed out the potential dangers of not unbundling, Swain took the MED point of view to cabinet and asked for permission to revisit the issue with the commission. That advice was rejected by cabinet, however.

Little is forthcoming yet from the minor parties on where they might try to influence Labour's course on ICT. New Zealand First's former ICT spokesman Brent Catchpole was not returned to parliament, a fate shared by the Greens' Nandor Tanczos, a stong champion of open source software. NZ First, accordingly, was not prepared to comment last week on possible policy pressure, and Jim Anderton was unavaialble for a Progressive Party perspective.

A United Future spokeswoman confirms that the party is in favour of local loop unbundling, and in line with its family-oriented policies, wants to see strong sanctions against on-line pestering of children and young people.

Cunliffe is likely to have a busy year ahead of him. Impending legislation includes a revisitation of the Telecommunications Act, his anti-spam legislation and new copyright legislation.

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