Cautious response to technology strategy

Unions, consumer and environment groups have greeted a new Australian government plan for handling controversial developments such as nanotechnology, with caution.

The National Enabling Technologies Strategy, released this week, allocates around $38 million over four years "to guide the safe development of new technologies such as nanotechnology and biotechnology."

"It's important for Australia to take advantage of new technologies as they arise," says Peter Chesworth, from the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.

"[But] it's very important that this isn't done to the exclusion of health, safety and the environment."

The new strategy will establish a Stakeholder Advisory Council to advise government.

"When it comes to issues such as biotechnology and nanotechnology, there is a diverse set of views out there. We want to set up this group to enable a broad range of views to be heard," says Chesworth.
'Fair dinkum?'

Critics have welcomed the stakeholder council but are concerned about its role given it will only meet twice a year.

"You wonder therefore how fair dinkum are they about that group having a genuine input into this entire process," says Geoff Fary from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

Georgia Miller of the Friends of the Earth Nanotechnology Project says the strategy does not state to whom the stakeholder council will report.

"It wasn't made clear to what extent its feedback is going to inform strategy development," she says.

Consumer group Choice says the strategy has some "good intentions", but wants to wait and see what happens.

"The government is saying they will consult stakeholders widely so we're hoping that's fully fledged engagement and not just telling us what they're doing," says Kate Norris of Choice.

Chesworth says the stakeholder council will report to the enabling technologies section of the industry department, which will then pass the advice onto the minister.

He says the decision to have twice-yearly meeting was to make sure meetings had a full agenda, but this schedule might be revisted.


Post a Comment