Tech Heads: The New Political Force?

Well, the election was last night, and after an excruciating five-week campaign, we are all none the wiser as to who will be running Australia going forward, with the result looking set to be a hung parliament.

The current standings vary from media outlet to media outlet, with some having the ALP ahead, some having the Coalition ahead, and some having them on 72 seats apiece, four short of the majority of 76 seats required for any party to form government in its own right. Whatever the true figure currently is, it is clear that we will be waiting some time for a definitive result, depending on who sides with who amongst the independents, and the historic single Greens member of the new house, in forming a minority government.

It looks to be boiling down to four currently undecided seats – Corangamite in Victoria, Lindsay in New South Wales, Brisbane in Queensland, and Hasluck in Western Australia. Corangamite and Hasluck in particular look set to go right down to the wire, with Labor ahead in Corangamite, and the Coalition ahead in Hasluck.

There have been many key issues in this election, such as health, education, immigration and climate change. However – (despite my own particular interests in the area) – I believe the vote in the areas of technology policy could quite easily have been the tipping – (or sticking) – point that has created the hung result.

I am particularly reminded of Tony Abbott’s ”I am not a tech head” comment in regards to the proposed National Broadband Network (NBN). The NBN is an extremely popular Labor policy within the tech community in Australia, and a clear Liberal misunderstanding of what it offers has undoubtedly cost the Coalition many votes amongst tech-inspired voters.

It also could easily have won it votes, given the significantly smaller price tag of its alternative – (but vastly technologically inferior) – solution to Australia’s broadband needs. This smaller price tag would undoubtedly have won over many people who also don’t understand the Labor proposal.

Equally on the other side of the fence, Labor’s almost universally unpopular policy for the introduction of mandatory internet filtering has undoubtedly cost Labor many votes amongst the so-called “tech-heads”.

Given that the result of the election looks to be coming down to very slim margins in a very small number of electorates, and the number of “tech-heads” in those electorates, imagine what difference a change in technology policy stance from either side might have made to voting in those electorates.

A Coalition that agreed to keep the NBN – (which it had vowed to scrap) – could have swept to power, giving us a clear winner, fast broadband, and no internet filtering. A Labor party that agreed to drop the internet filtering policy outright -(which it had vowed to push ahead with) – could also have swept into government, giving us a clear winner, fast broadband, and no internet filtering.

The apparent Greens balance of power in the Senate – with them winning nine positions around the country – will still likely see the death of the internet filter, as the Coalition did listen on that issue, but its complete lack of vision on the NBN may have destined us to uncertain political status, and another election.

It is becoming clear that the “tech-heads” now have a significant voice in the political landscape – and both sides of politics would be well advised to pay attention.

As last night may well have proven.

  • Hi Mike, saying ‘This smaller price tag would undoubtedly have won over many people who also don’t understand the Labor proposal.’ is disingenuous. I fully understand the NBN proposal. I just don’t agree with it creating a bigger monopoly than what we already have. I also think the $43,000,000,000 could be better spent.
    I agree with the rest of your post.

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  • It’s not disingenuous – the average man on the street OUTSIDE of the understanding both you and I have of the proposal, would see “$6.5b vs $43b” as a win for the Coalition. That’s what the Liberals were banking on. They know full well that their solution is far inferior, but as a point of difference, they came up with a figure far less then the Labor plan.

    As you know, I believe that $43b is huge number, but worth it in the long run. This is barely more expensive (in today’s money) than when the copper network was rolled out 65 years ago, and will last as long. It’s easy to say as a city dweller that the copper network will suffice – it will not.

    Organisations I have worked with have been turning customers away for YEARS, simply because the copper network cannot deliver any kind of DSL service – including in METROPOLITAN areas.

  • After re-reading that passage, I see what you meant now. When you’re talking about the average Joe Voter, yes the price tag would be the main thing they would look at.
    This would be the perfect time for the coalition to decide to keep the NBN, have it start in rural areas and then have a slower roll out in areas that already have decent broadband. They could keep both camps happy by not spending the money so quickly but keeping the Fibre plan that Labor put in place.

  • I figured you must have misread it… 🙂

    I still think the ALP have the slight upper hand – I prefer to look at the seats the AEC have declared – (rather than what the networks declare, and which are all different) – ALP on 71, Coalition on 71. ALP expected to get Corangamite and Lindsay, Coalition expected to get Brisbane, and Hasluck officially “too close to call”.

    That leaves ALP on 73, Coalition on 72. With Adam Bandt expected to side with Labor, that’s 74 vs 72, so the Coalition needs three of the four independents to beat 74. ALP would then only have to convince one of them to get 75 and be “ahead” of Coalition on 74.

    Then it is down to Hasluck…

  • I agree that technology was a factor in this election, and I also believe that it will become more and more important as time goes on.

    However I think saying any one issue in this election is a tipping point is a step too far. In the rich tapestry of clusterfk this election and the major parties policies have been – and with the margins as tight as they have been – almost any group could claim it was their causes’ supporters that were the tipping point.

    Better to say that the parties need to recognize tech-heads as a group when formulating policy much as they have groups like the ACL

  • Certainly not saying that technology is the ONLY issue – far from it – but if the various technology policies are looked at in insolation, and with quite a number of seats decided by only a small number of votes, a variation in the voting response of the technology community could well have seen those seats with small margins go the other way, or more decisively in the direction that have turned out to go.

    Technology policy could easily have been enough to turn just enough seats in the direction(s) that have created the likely hung parliament.

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