Losing the filter without losing face

This week the Australian Labor Party installed Julia Gillard as its new leader, making her the first female Prime Minister of Australia.  This change in leadership provides the government with an opportunity to change its approach to certain policy issues without losing (quite so much) face.

The new PM has wasted no time in seizing the opportunity to  change the governments  approach to negotiating with the mining industry over the resource super profit tax (RSPT). The question now is – what other policy areas could benefit from an opportune change of tack?

Within the telecoms and technology arena, there have been two hot topics for the  ALP led government since it came to power – the National Broadband Network (NBN) and internet censorship.

This week, an in principle agreement was finally reached with Telstra in regards to the company’s involvement with the NBN.  Given the size  of the agreement ($11bn) and the benefits of the deal to NBN Co (access to Telstra’s infrastructure and customers), the government is  unlikely to  substantially change things too much in this arena. With an election  expected in the next few months, the government needs the NBN to be an election promise showing tangible progress – not just another pipe dream causing conflicts like the RSPT.

On the other hand – internet censorship continues to be a problem area for the government. Like the NBN, progress has been slow. So slow there’s speculation that the enabling legislation may be delayed until after the election. But like the NBN, internet censorship was an election promise and the escalating rhetoric from Senator Conroy (the responsible minister) had put the government in a position where it risked losing face if it yielded to criticism of the proposal.

But Julia Gillard’s ascension to the role of PM offers an opportunity for the government to rethink this policy. If  Senator Conroy where moved on as part of a Cabinet reshuffle, a new Communications Minister could potentially seek alternate methods of delivering the spirit of the policy – without imposing mandatory internet censorship on all Australians.

The next few weeks look like being a very interesting period indeed.

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