Guests from Down Under

Today we welcomed Richard Torbay, Hon.D. Univ., MP – Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, Chancellor of the University of New England. Being a politician and chancellor of a university, Mr Torbay was very interested in modern postgraduate education at the Danube University and Austrian experiences with e-government. Mr Torbay was accompanied by his wife Rosemary and Elisabeth Jaquemar from the Australian Embassy.

Medimorec, Parycek, Mr and Mr Torbay

As introduction, Peter Parycek and Daniel Medimorec presented some facts about the Danube University and explained the practice-orientated approach to postgraduate education. The Danube University makes 76 % of its earnings on its own, something that would not be possible at Torbay’s public university. However, he said Australian universities that did not adapt their profiles to the free market had great problems in a competitive market for education.

Change in Culture of Administration

Torbay’s main interests were e-government strategies reaching from e-registers via e-voting to web 2.0 based applications. As Australian states are more independent than Austrian states, e-government in Australia might be difficult to realise at the moment due to varying viewpoints among the states. One of the reasons for Austria’s successful e-government projects is the centralised administration by the chancellor’s agencies. Even though e-government includes a change in culture of administration, Torbay stated that without the support of bureaucracy, great initiatives are not possible. “As a politician you’re not delivering the product,” you only make the decision.

Australians are legally obliged to vote so they do not have a problematic decrease of voter turnout, as some European countries have. E-voting could make live easier in a country of widely scattered settlements. However, trust in an e-voting system has to be established before implementing it. Voters do not want anybody to know whom they voted for – and they are right to insist on this constitutional right.

Electronic support is already established in Australia’s excellent health care system. Torbay told us about his visit of a small hospital in a rural area, where a surgeon got instructions from an expert several hundred kilometres away with the support of ICTs. The patient definitely benefited from modernised technology, getting the best care possible.

High Value to the Public

Torbay believes that the use of ICTs will engage the younger generation in democratic processes. “If we don’t go there, we will lose people,” he said. The project meinparlament.at, co-founded by Peter Parycek, shows the advantages of ICTs in making our democracy more transparent. “This is a high value product to the public,” Torbay commented. The future of e-governmental processes will be based on web 2.0 applications, implementing more and more participation, transparency and collaboration.

Our Australian guests were most amazed by the fact that the Austrian Republic consists of 9 states and more than 2,000 municipalities, a figure so unbelievably high that we had to prove it’s true. I want to finish this report by thanking Mr and Ms Torbay and Ms Jaquemar for their visit and the interesting discussions we had.

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