Business lobbyists the Australian Industry Group (AIG) have just released their Innovation Report. Business votes conservative in Australia. True to form one of our best known if not most admired businessmen (although I admire him a lot, as a visionary and wealth creator) Rupert Murdoch plays into that role through his newspaper The Australian in relentlessly attacking a socialist Federal Goverment’s National Broadband Network.
It’s somewhat ironic, because in the past as Rubert Murdoch has periodically landed on our shores he’s generally made pro-competitive and pro-digital comments that have angered even the conservative Federal governments. That’s because he speaks with a world-view and the previous conservative Federal government was brain-dead when it came to digital. The then Prime Minister preferring to invest $1 billion of taxpayers’ money into a loss-making railway line (Alice Springs to Darwin) which, and I kid you not, carried one train per day. It was opened in 2004 and went bust in 2008 and was sold off at a loss to taxpayers just a few years later – I’m talking 2004 not 1894!!
Broadband rated #2 for innovation outcomes
Surprise, the Innovation Report lists “Leveraging the Australian broadband opportunity” as their #2 theme for providing “enhanced opportunities” for “innovation outcomes“. Australia’s productivity has been significantly declining over the last decade, relative to the OECD average. There are a lot of reasons for this, but that’s another post!
Sticking to the Report, those surveyed said that the three skill areas they deem most important for innovation are team work, communications and adapting to change. The most important technologies nominated for creating “future innovation opportunities” were “fast broadband and software applications”. Just rounding out that list, the three key barriers to innovation were identified as lack of funds, inappropriate skills, and lack of time and resources.
What the AIG did not say – we support the NBN Project
Cutting to the chase, the Report gushed glowingly about the potential of ubiquitous high speed broadband while trying to sidestep, backstep and flip over backwards to not say that it supported the government’s National Broadband project. That’s to be expected, since “industry” has been howling for an NBN cost-benefit analysis and “business leaders” are fronting the calls and the AIG is a business lobby group with a self-centered interest. It’s walking a fine line.
In the section devoted to “Leveraging Broadband” it states all the obvious along with a fair amount of waffle to fill the page e.g. why fibre, what about wireless, it has to be competitive, must be industry scrutiny (yawning now), transparency, extremely wide-ranging, early adopters will lead the charge (nearly asleep), and ends with the old clincher of “building awareness“. Ho hum it could have all been drafted straight out of a hundred government reports. BUT of course the AIG don’t come out and support the current government plan.
Broadband one of the key drivers
So what we have is gushing unanimous support for “ubiquitous” high speed broadband. AIG agrees that it is going to “raise productivity”, “lead to the creation of services and business models which do not yet exist”, and that it is one of their key drivers of innovation “outcomes”.
Furthermore AIG states that it has substantial possibilities “to generate long-term positive opportunities across many sectors of the economy“. Welcome to the 20th century, now adjust your watches forward one century to 2010!
What else the AIG does NOT say
The AIG report takes care to weasel its self-interest around not saying these two most important things:
- It does not call for a cost-benefit analysis; and,
- It does not object to the Government building and operating a wholesale broadband network.
NBN is the only game in town – so it has to be the one supported by AIG
Since the Australian Government’s National Broadband Network is the only game in town, which is exactly why it exists as industry would not come to the party, then putting all weasel-wording self-interest aside it has to be the conclusion that the AIG backs the NBN, essentially in its current form.
If there is nothing else on the table, nothing in even a remotely substantial form, and the AIG says that they rate it as “the most important technology (along with software applications) for creating future innovation opportunities“, then QED.
Having Australian industry lobby groups saying something sensible about the business use of technology is as earth-shattering as Harmid Karzai owning up to his foreign bank accounts. You have a feeling one day that it might happen but it still comes as a shock!
I’m sure that we’ll never get a straight answer of support from the AIG, but the Report has it all down in writing – you just have to read between the lines! It seems every lobbyist is an aspiring politician!
Did you read the AIG report and did you learn anything about the business benefits of broadband?
Did you gauge any specific comments against the current NBN project?
Why do you think that the AIG will not openly support the NBN project?