Senator Kate Lundy during the swearing-in ceremony at Government House with Governor-General Quentin Bryce. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Senator Kate Lundy has flagged a need to boost the prospects of technology start-ups as a key focus area in her newly appointed position as assisting minister for the digital economy.
In her first interview since gaining the role in Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's ministry reshuffle on Monday, Senator Lundy told The Australian Financial Review that she wanted to return the technology industry to the policy spotlight after several years as a sideshow to broader policies like the national broadband.
"It's a very powerful signal by the government that they want to take it somewhere new," she said.
"Particularly because I have a little bit of background in this area, I think it's an opportunity to lift its profile. It is the right time for Australia to step onto that international stage with our ICT capability, which is enormous and often under-recognised as far as the contribution to our economy and potential contribution to our economy goes."
Of key interest, she said, was seeing through a review of tax arrangements for employee share schemes, announced last month alongside an update to the government's digital economy strategy.
Technology entrepreneurs welcomed the move as one of several policy settings they said needed changing in order to encourage start-up growth in Australia. "I've had the view expressed to me by many entrepreneurs who are at that very early stage," Senator Lundy said. "If we can get the settings right on employee share schemes, then we'll be able to stimulate growth both in businesses and employment. I'll need to look at that closely."
MORE ONLINE ENGAGEMENT WITH CITIZENS
She also pointed to more heavily promoting online government services, traditionally a weak point of government service delivery, by forcing a cultural change that moved engagement with citizens online away from public relations departments in agencies.
"An enormous amount is spent on technology at the moment and as I've demonstrated in the past, there are tools freely available on the internet that people use to interact with each other, so there's an enormous amount of opportunity there, not necessarily at any great expense," she said.
Where the broadband, communications and the digital economy portfolio had previously been held solely by Stephen Conroy, Prime Minister Rudd's reshuffle on Monday saw four ministers take on the role with Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as figurehead.
He will be joined by Senator Lundy, Ed Husic as parliamentary secretary for broadband, and Sharon Bird as minister for regional communications.
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