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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11629

Address at launch of Intelligent Island programme, Tasmania

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 11/08/2000

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 11629

Subjects: Intelligent Island; Neville Roach; Information Technology

E&OE..................

Thankyou very much Neville, the Premier, my Parliamentary colleagues, Brian Gibson, John Watson and Brian Harradine, ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to be back in Launceston. I had the opportunity on an early morning walk to remind myself of what a beautiful provincial city Launceston is and therefore it is appropriate for a whole number of reasons that this launch take place here. It's a reminder of the importance of achieving balanced development in the state of Tasmania and it's also a reminder to me and to the members of my government and to others generally of the importance of those who live and carry on their businesses in the very large cities of Australia, the important contribution made to the community and the life and the development of Australia by the more significant provincial cities, such as Launceston.

This project, 'Intelligent Island' is being funded to the tune of 40 million dollars by the Federal government. It's been made entirely possible and only possible because of the further partial sale of Telstra and it is appropriate that I acknowledge the presence of Brian Harradine here today because without the support of Brian Harradine and the other independent in the Senate, this money would not be available because it was opposed as you know by all of the opposition parties in the Senate, the Australian Democrats and the Australian Greens.

And I am delighted that we are able to say in relation to this project that already, a very strong board and I thank Neville Roach, who is a very highly respected business figure in Australia and in his other activities gives great leadership in relation to building the community life of this country, his involvement in matters relating to the ethnic diversity of Australia is well know, he chaired a committee of inquiries set up by the Government in that area and I am very grateful for the contribution that he is willing to make on the -coming on the back of his business activities to so many community challenges.

There's a lot written, indeed there are acres of print and millions of words spoken about the importance of information technology. Not only to Australia but to the world. There's a very strong and credible view that the principal reason that the American economy is now performing so well is that that country is now beginning to reap the dividends of the massive investment in information technology and technology generally and it's therefore tremendously important that this country remain at the cutting edge of what's happening in that area. And we shouldn't sell ourselves short. Australians are great embracers of new technology. It's not just information technology, if you go back decades, you'll find that if Australians were quicker in taking things up than many others. In the post war years, Australians took to the new modern consumer appliances more rapidly than many other societies and on per capita basis, we quickly raced ahead of many of the counter part communities in Europe and we are second only to the United States now in the usage of the internet. We're second to the United States only in relation to mobile phones and we've arguably got a superior network. Anybody who's tried on occasion to negotiate the mobile phone network of the United States will know that that's absolutely the truth.

So there's a lot going for this country when it comes to information technology but we need to increasingly add value to that and that is what this initiative is all about. I mean the $40 million fund, it means that of the $920 million that has come out of the sale of T2 as it's called, the second sale of part of Telstra, out of $920 million, $168 million of that is being invested in various activities in Tasmania alone. And that is a very significant provision, a very appropriate provision and one that I'm very happy and can easily defend and support in any discussions I have with premiers in other parts of Australia who sometimes say to me how is it that Tasmania has $168 million? And my reply is you look at the quality of each of those projects and you'll find that every last dollar is fully justified.

Just to give you an idea of what the board has already done. They've developed a strategic plan consisting of seven elements. And these seven initiatives will assist the development of an internationally competitive Tasmanian IT industry. There's $8 million for an IT&T incubator to assist in a range of business and management development services as well as providing start up funding for firms. There's $10 million for an investment fund to give an accessible funding mechanism with debt and equity components for Tasmanian IT&T firms. There's $10 million for a centre of excellence to create a focal point for innovation and to promote IT skills development. There's $5 million for a skills development fund for projects to support the growth of an IT skills base in this state. There's $6 million for investment attraction to maximise the access to Tasmanian IT&T firms have to strategic partnerships. A $500,000 to market the capability of Tasmania's IT&T sector and a $500,000 for a study to better align telecommunications infrastructure with industry development goals.

Neville Roach has already told you of the calibre of the board. I thank the Tasmanian Government through the Premier for its participation in the administration of this fund and the partnership signed between the Tasmanian Government and the Minister, Senator Richard Alston back in March. Through cooperation the two governments will ensure that this federally funded project makes a major contribution to the development of the IT industry in Tasmania.

I want to conclude off the back of yesterday's employment figures. We are experiencing in Australia at the present time the best employment outlook this country has had for a decade. Unemployment is still too high in this country. It's still too high in parts of Tasmania. It's lower now than it was a number of years ago. I believe that it can be driven down even further. But in order to drive it down further we'll need to do a number of things. We'll need to maintain a strong and steady rate of economic growth. If we can maintain 4% or better over the next few years we can not only keep unemployment where it is now but perhaps get it down a bit more.

But we've got to do a little more than that, we've also got to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. We've got to make certain that we get every last job that might be available out of the information technology revolution. We can't afford to assume it will happen. We have to drive initiatives. We have to be pro-active as we are being in relation to Intelligent Island. And we have to make absolutely certain that we have an economy that is flexible enough to accommodate change and to accommodate innovation. And if we can achieve those three things, in five years time there's no reason why we can't have an even lower rate of unemployment and be talking about getting it down a bit more than we have at the present time. We have come a long way but you never mark time. You either keep going forward or you go backwards. And Intelligent Island is making certain that Tasmania will be there. Tasmania will be part of the new jobs harvest from information technology and I'm delighted therefore to launch it. I thank my colleagues for being here today. I thank the Tasmanian Government for its willingness to cooperate with the federal Government in implementing this programme. I think it's important for all of us as Australians that governments work together once policy has been established to make sure that the policy is implemented in the most effective way imaginable and I most warmly thank Neville Roach for the leadership that he has given to the board of management of Intelligent Island.

Thank you.

ends

Transcript 11629