Technology industry leaders have signalled their support for new Communications Minister Anthony Albanese, with his infrastructure experience seen as beneficial for the build of the national broadband network.
Albanese was named the new Deputy Prime Minister last week after the leadership spill which saw Kevin Rudd returned to power.
He was this morning appointed to the position of Communications Minister following the departure of Stephen Conroy. The portfolio is considered crucial to the Government with its control of the $37 billion NBN rollout.
Albanese added Communications to his current Infrastructure and Transport and Regional Development and Local Government portfolios. Albanese has limited experience in the technology sector, with a political background strong in infrastructure, transport and government.
Industry leaders said Albanese’s strengths in the infrastructure portfolio would serve him well in leading the nation’s biggest ever infrastructure project.
Data#3 managing director John Grant said the departure of Conroy, a minister who “drove the agenda with huge determination and passion” would be missed, but with Albanese the Government had put “one of their best people” into the portfolio.
"By virtue of [Conroy’s] will, a lot of things happened. People might not like what happened but you’re very clear with Conroy where you stand,” Grant said.
“Anthony is a very experienced campaigner, I know him personally, and he’s been given what’s been described from the Government’s point of view as the critical portfolio for re-election. The NBN is the biggest infrastructure investment Australia has ever made, it fits in well with Anthony’s previous experience.”
Grant said Albanese wouldn’t be hampered by a lack of technical knowledge, as he had the experience within the department.
“I think we technologists think about it too technologically. We need to change some of the messaging we take into the business community to be much less about technology, much more about business outcomes and how they are going to be driven in a digital economy. I think the simplicity of that will play strongly into Anthony Albanese’s capability.”
“For upload speeds and fibre to the home versus fibre to the node and all that sort of stuff, he’s going to have to rely on people in his department, and the experience is there.”
iiNet chief Michael Malone, who runs the biggest ISP on the NBN, said although he hadn’t met Albanese personally, at a high level, having Communications along with Infrastructure and Transport was a “pretty good fit, albeit a big portfolio”.
He said he expected Albanese to do “whatever he can to keep the NBN rollout going ahead as fast as possible”.
Technology analyst Paul Budde said in a blog post the appointment of Albanese to the Communications portfolio proved how seriously the Government took the NBN.
“Anthony Albanese is in many aspects the right person to take on the NBN. While the debate has sometimes been rather different, the NBN has all to do with national infrastructure and very little with telecommunications and while the Deputy PM might not be as knowledgeable about telecoms he most certainly is knowledgeable in relation to infrastructure,” he said.
“There is no doubt that Mr Albanese will be an excellent defender of the NBN in the Parliament and in relation to further political comments on the NBN. The PM will need to provide him with all the room and all the support to move the NBN forward, the NBN will most certainly have priority in Albanese’s extremely fully packed portfolio.”
Optus vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs David Epstein said in a statement he welcomed the appointment, and highlighted the additional appointments of MPs Ed Husic and Sharon Bird to the portfolio, as Parliamentary Secretary for Broadband and Minister for Regional Communications respectively.
“Husic has a strong knowledge of the telecommunications industry from his time as a union official and we have enjoyed a good relationship with him as the convenor of the ALP digital economy group,” he said.
“A reliable high performance telecommunication network is critical for Australians living in regional, rural and remote areas and we look forward to working with Minister Bird on this important policy area.”
Telstra CEO David Thodey said he welcomed the appointment and looked forward to working with him.