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.