New Australian IT Minister starts with clear mind

The newly appointed IT and Communications Minister Helen Coonan plans to undertake widespread consultation with industry before making any firm policy decisions.

Speaking on ABC Radio on Thursday, Coonan said she is currently awaiting briefings from her new department and would not make policy decisions without consultation.

However, the incoming Minister was willing to give her personal views on the media and communications side of her portfolio.

Coonan said she felt uncomfortable about a recent episode of Playschool on ABC television, which featured a lesbian couple and their daughter. Coonan said she hadn’t actually seen the episode in question but felt it didn’t send the right message.

“I would like to perhaps consider it more carefully when I’ve had a chance to actually see what it was, because obviously some very difficult topics can be dealt with quite effectively, depending on how it’s presented,” she said.

IT industry stakeholders keen to get ministerial mindshare and to see what direction the portfolio will take under her leadership, were offered little insight during the radio interview but Coonan did say she held no fixed views.

“I think if you come into a portfolio with very fixed views it’s not a good way to start,” she said. “I think you need to clear your mind of, perhaps, previous positions you have towards points of view so you can honestly say that you’re open to suggestions.”

When it comes to broadcasting and the media side of her new portfolio, Coonan did say she expects to have a professional relationship with media magnate Kerry Packer.

“It’s not a personal relationship, but it’s obviously a professional one,” she said. “And I certainly respect many of the views that, shall I say, media proprietors have, and the focus they bring to these issues.”

Coonan replaces outgoing IT and Communications Minister Daryl Williams in a cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister John Howard yesterday.

Coonan is the government’s third IT Minister in 12 months.

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