In general this new government is a further thrust to the right– looking at the developments during the period of the Turnbull government – where little progress has been made in relation to more progressive policies – this further push to the right will most likely have a further negative effect on progressive policies, innovations, smart energy, the nbn – all of this at a time when major changes are needed to progress our country.
Some more detailed observations regarding the new ministry. The communications portfolio stays with Mitch Fifield, so this means steady as you go no changes, also not to the nbn. The assistant minister for rural communications is no longer, so that could be bad news for regional Australia, it will be interesting to hear what the National Party thinks of this.
The energy portfolio goes to Angus Taylor, one of the most conservative politicians in the government, who is a fervent anti-renewable advocate on the other hand he has been very much involved in sustainability and renewable projects when he was in charge of the federal smart city policy.
However, I still have that horrible picture in my mind with Scott Morrison entering Parliament with that block of coal in his hands, a picture that went across the world and what certainly didn’t provide a progressive picture of Australia and this doesn’t augur wel for smart energy developments.
It looks like Paul Fletcher insights in ICT has been lost in the new government as he is now moving into family /social services.
From an ICT perspective Malcolm Turnbull will be remembered for killing the national fibre to the home plan and instead giving the country the ill-fated multi technology mix version of the NBN.
But it was also interesting to note that in his farewell speech – as many have stated the best during his whole period as PM – also mentioned that he was happy with his smart city / city deal policy as this will bring the cities more into policy making.
In my opinion this goes much further and much deeper and will be at the core of wrestling back our democratic principles. I strongly believe that to safe our democracy we need to go back to the roots and develop bottom up policies. At grassroots levels there are in general no or very little problems with migrants and refugees; people in their communities and cities are concerned about climate change, sustainability, they want a proper nbn, etc.
Businesses on the ground are voting with their feet and are massively investing in renewable energy. Businesses and also cities are building their own fibre optic networks as they know very well that any modern business or city will need a first class digital infrastructure.
Unfortunately – and this is the key problem – nearly all the policies and finances are controlled by the Federal Government and in order to progress our country this will have to change, there need to be more political power at the level of local communities, cities and the states.
We do see these trends emerging in the USA, the UK, Netherlands where it are the mayors who increasingly are coming together to combine their political powers to influence national policies as they know best what happens on the ground and what is needed to improve their local society and local economy. Local Councils have a far better record on working together within their local communities, whereby they put their community first and not their party politics.
Currently hundreds of projects that have been brought forward by local councils are stalled by the Federal Government. In a conquer and divide policy they dish out money based on their political needs at that time and at places that fit their political agenda. Some of these projects are sitting on the federal shelves for three to five years or longer, suffocating local developments and local progress.
The concept of smart cities and city deals could most certainly assist in supporting the bottom up approach, not that this will happen overnight but we have to start somewhere. In 2017 I was able to organise the first ever meeting of the mayors of smart cities, I have since been trying hard to see a continuation of this initiative through the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors (CCCLM), again not an easy process but I hope that over time some positive developments in this respect are also going to happen in Australia.
My conclusion is that to develop progressive policies for our country we must look at the leadership of States and Cities rather than that of the Federal Government. How to make this happen will depend on us, the people. We see positive people power movements happening around the world and there is no reason why we can’t apply this to the development of smart communities and smart cities.