Communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy has thrown his support behind Prime Minister Julia Gillard as the Labor Government faces its second leadership spill in under two years.
Gillard yesterday announced that members of the Australian Labor Party caucus would meet at 10am on Monday to vote for a leader.
Her announcement followed the dramatic resignation of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd from his post as Foreign Minister, after months of speculation that he would challenge her for leadership.
Conroy told journalists at the launch of NICTA’s new Digital Productivity Showcase yesterday that Gillard had “overwhelming support” within the Australian Labor Party.
“What the Australian public want is leadership, not popularity,” he said.
“That’s what Julia Gillard has been demonstrating; that she has that toughness, the single-mindedness that despite all that’s going on around her, deliver on the reform program.
“We’ve passed the mining resource tax. We’ve passed the private health means test. We’ve passed the NBN bills. That is what leadership is about, not short-term popularity.”
Conroy has presided over the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy under both Rudd’s leadership since 2007 and Gillard’s leadership since last June.
When questioned on how Monday’s leadership spill would affect his communications portfolio, Conroy said it would be up to the successful prime minister to appoint the portfolio’s leader.
“Ultimately, it’s up to the Prime Minister, who I expect to be Julia Gillard,” Conroy told iTnews.
“I’d be very proud to continue serving as Julia’s communications minister.”
Digital productivity showcase
Senator Conroy opened NICTA’s Digital Productivity Showcase in a virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony at the organisation’s headquarters in the Australian Technology Park.
NICTA’s broadband and digital economy director Terry Percival said the showcase aimed to “bridge the gap between researchers, end-users and companies large and small”.
The launch was attended by Australian university officials, government representatives and members of the industry, including IBM Australia’s research director Glenn Wightwick and NBN Co’s chief executive officer, Mike Quigley.
Within the showcase, researchers demonstrated technology for teleworking, adopting cloud computing services, privacy and identity management, and analysing “big data”.
Conroy said digital productivity was “key” to Australia’s future as a digital economy and the NBN was “the infrastructure that will get us there”.
“The NBN is just the platform; it is the use of the NBN that will enable business to develop new and efficient ways of doing things,” he said.
“In Australia, the rate of productivity improvement is slow. In the decade to 2000, the improvement averaged 1.4 percent down from 2.1 percent in the preceding decade.
“There are two ways you can react to that: you can watch it happen, or you can invest in improving productivity,” he said.
“We’re harnessing innovation to improve productivity in business, industry and government.”