Following his much criticised effort at last year’s event, the only way was up for Steven Joyce at the NetHui conference this morning.
Any most agreed it was certainly an improvement – even if that could be measured, in one delegate’s brutal assessment, as an improvement from insulting to soporific.
The minister of many things – including science and innovation, and economic development – essentially reeled off the various projects and initiatives the government.
UFB. MFI. E-learning. E-business. E-government. ICT skill development. Cyber-security.
In rhetorical terms, this one sat squarely in the shopping list genre.
NetHuistas might reasonably wonder why he and John Key didn’t choose to use the NetHui stage to launch a major government initiative, the Advanced Technology Institute. Instead, they did it somewhere else in Auckland hours later.
Answering a question about the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement – a subject of enormous interest to many in the digital industry – Joyce said he’s “not that close to it”, but: “New Zealand negotiators are acutely aware of the challenges of making sure we don’t compromise too much.”
People needed to understand the “trade-offs, opportunities and risks” of the deal, he added.
On the Copyright Act review slated for next year, Joyce said: “My sense is it will be more of a fine tuning than a massive review.”
Joyce shook hands with Labour leader David Shearer before sweeping out the door with his aide.
Shearer took the stage and told us he just shook Joyce’s hand, and didn’t that just show that politics isn’t as nasty as all that. I’d like to imagine that Joyce, bolting down the escalator, at that moment wiped his hand on his aide’s blazer, hollering, “Yuck, Labour germs”.
The Labour leader began with a personal story – he even told us it was a personal story, in case we missed it – about his time at the UN in Jerusalem, and the use of the internet and GPS to share information about the status of checkpoints in the occupied territories.
Reportedly he told a different anecdote about his UN days at an event later in the day. Backstory is go.
With a passing mention of the Arab Spring and technology and All That, Shearer made his way to the territory he’s trying to stake out in the leadup to 2014. Science, innovation, the weightless economy, all that. Retaining talent in New Zealand. Moving beyond reliance on the primary sector – but “and not or”. Paul Callaghan received the obligatory couple of name-checks.
Shearer is getting better at articulating this case, though he’s still searching for a form of words to really make it sing. (No sign of the “clean, green and clever” slogan today.)
And more important still, he needs to flesh it out with some policy specifics – a gap he acknowledges.
After Shearer, Nat Torkington rallied the troops, ahead of a busy programme on Day Two. He began by saying how difficult it must have been for the speaker following the powerful and affecting address by Emma Smythe yesterday. “I, on the other hand am blessed,” said Torkington. “I’m following two politicians.”