by Lisa Banks

ACS weighs in on federal budget

May 13, 2010

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has given a mixed review of Tuesday’s federal budget.

ACS president, Anthony Wong, and chief executive officer, Bruce Lakin, said there were both positive and negative implications for the IT sector.

Wong said there are few areas in the budget significant to IT but the IT industry has been glanced over by the Rudd government.

“With the exception of the ongoing commitment to the NBN and some e-health funding, there’s little in this year’s budget of direct relevance to ICT,” he said in a statement.

“Overall, we are disappointed that, once again, technology has been overlooked as an area of specific focus for the government. Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner, recently acknowledged the need to decrease Australia’s reliance on non-renewable resources and the Henry Report identified ICT as one of the four key drivers of our future economy,” he said.

With employment stability in the IT sector remaining steady, ACS chief Bruce Lakin highlighted an increase in funding for skills training as a positive outcome of the budget.

“The ACS is pleased to see some significant funding in the skills area. We are keen to ensure that retraining for mature ICT workers is a key component of this investment. It’s also vital for Australia to deliver work-ready graduates who can help fill the ICT industry’s skills gaps.

“The ACS would like to see incentives for employers to host students as part of a Work Integrated Learning Scheme, along with additional HECS relief for students who plan to take on the extra year of study and additional support for Universities who will extend courses,” he said.

Lakin told CIO that this was an important area of focus and IT companies should be recognised for sacrificing the time and effort to provider internships to students.

“The industry has an impost on its operations by accepting interns and undergraduates. They have to use some management time and effort and capacity to manage these people into the workforce and accept a loss of productivity because of the time and effort devoted to introducing people into the work environment,” he said.

“There needs to be a recognition of that cost to industry and I think there’s a role of government to help in this way.”

Lakin said the ACS is supportive of the increase in funding for the e-health sector and had provided CIOs working in healthcare with advice on what they should focus on.

“The government’s continued progress in the electronic record keeping area is very positive for our industry. The $467 million dedicated towards e-health records and the development of a simpler electronic tax system are positive signs of our transition towards an effective digital economy.

“There is a role for ICT to help address that in terms of raising the productivity of the sector and what they are putting into e-health will undoubtedly raise the productivity of the sector and will provide good patient care,” he said.