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Estimates committee dissects NOIE

Estimates committee dissects NOIE

With the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE) now certain to be abolished in name, politicians intent on dismembering the agency have run into an unexpected hurdle: how to carve-up NOIE’s more useful coordinating functions with departments such as the Attorney Generals and Defence.

The rare glimpse of how politicians work through the tangible aspects of ICT policy came courtesy of a Senate Estimates hearing last week, with ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries leading the interrogatory charge against NOIE.

With politicians ostensibly hunting for answers, NOIE senior managers were summoned to committee by their masters at 11pm, only to front a long series of hypothetical, suggestive and increasingly bizarre questions from Humphries.

Who could potentially pick up NOIE’s policy outputs? Where could NOIE’s many responsibilities fall should it, say, be hit by a bus? What would happen if NOIE withdrew from the National Broadband Strategy? How was NOIE thought of by its peers? Would there be more or less work, year-on-year, as new technologies emerged?

Humphries’ quixotic search stumbled briefly when NOIE’s coordinating role in Federal e-Security, namely its contribution of four staff to the Trusted Information Sharing Network and OnSecure internal security portal, attracted the spotlight.

Asked how important such things were, NOIE’s acting CEO John Grant answered that, in the scheme of things, Federal e-Security was very important and it would become increasingly important.

“NOIE deals with e-security on both internal- and external-to-government. NOIE brings a level of expertise at a strategic level,” Grant said, adding that getting numerous different departments to agree on sensitive matters (such as security) was no mean feat.

Humphries asked if the functions of NOIE could be performed by the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.

“That’s not a question I can answer. That’s a question for the government [to decide],” Grant replied.

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