Conroy silent on NEC cuts in bilateral R&D talks

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Conroy silent on NEC cuts in bilateral R&D talks

Sheds new light on Japanese visit.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy opted not to raise the latest round of R&D job cuts by Japanese giant NEC in bilateral talks on broadband research with his Japanese ICT counterpart.

NEC will cut 67 Melbourne researchers working on its wireline broadband access products and shift the work back to Japan after missing out on a lucrative NBN Co contract, CommsDay reported this month.

The Japanese firm retrenched 153 researchers working on Long Term Evolution (LTE) and 4G projects from the same facility in 2009.

But it appeared the topic was off-limits in Conroy's dialogue with Japan's Communications Minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi in Japan a fortnight ago.

The leaders reportedly left private sector cuts alone and instead pursued greater co-operation between the two countries' respective peak research bodies.

The co-operative research could, however, target similar areas to those where Australia has already experienced private sector cuts - namely, in the areas of broadband and technology research.

In Australia, an agreement with Japan would likely involve National ICT Australia (NICTA) and the Institute for a Broadband Enabled Society (IBES) at the University of Melbourne.

It was unclear which research organisation from Japan would be involved.

"We've agreed to set up a dialogue to try to bring them together to co-operate further," Conroy told iTnews.

"We haven't signed any papers yet, but what we've committed to do is reach an understanding about how we can work much closer together, so it's in the very early stages."

The purpose of Conroy's visit to Japan has been somewhat a mystery. Wire service Kyodo News briefly reported the bilateral talks but did not shed much light on their purpose.

Additional reporting by Ry Crozier.

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