In years to come Malcolm Turnbull will be remembered as the communications minister who, under an instruction from then prime minister Tony Abbott, ‘demolished’ Labor’s 21st Century National Broadband Network. But another prominent politician had earlier inflicted enduring damage to any nascent aim of becoming an innovation nation and set us back in an emerging digitally enabled world. Are we heading towards a repeat of this mistake in telecommunications policy?
Australia’s commercial television networks are in trouble. Not simply because of the Coronavirus but because they failed to develop effective strategies to counter the arrival of Netflix and other ‘streaming’ platforms – something anticipated long before it happened.
Last week the federal government threw the struggling networks a financial lifeline. It includes subsidies and deferred or waived fees and it reflects savage advertising revenue declines. Sadly for the viewing public however, local drama, children’s and documentary content quotas have been suspended.
We need to inject some ultimate responsibility into public administration. The buck has to stop somewhere.
What was perceived in some circles as two highly political appointments to plum roles in the federal public service highlights a need to re-examine government administration in the 21st Century. Not because such appointments are necessarily inappropriate, but because they expose a basic disconnect.
We still like to pretend we have an olde-worlde apolitical public service consisting of career bureaucrats who have no political leanings and/or are never influenced by them. If this was ever the case, it is no longer.
Worse still, the way public servants pursue their upward career mobility results in a surplus of generalists and a dearth of subject matter experts.