Setting up his office following the election of the Kennett Government in 1992, a Chief of Staff to a new Senior Minister had the temerity to ask the department for a desktop computer.
“Really…a computer! Not sure we can do that. I’ll check around the Department to see if we can find one,” was the reply.
Twenty years later we have seen a remarkable change in the technology used by governments and journalists to manage and cover State politics.
When the ALP left office in 1992 Ministers had one large brick mobile phone in each office. When they returned in 1999 every staff member and adviser had a mobile phone.
Over the ensuing eleven years the Bracks/Brumby Governments struggled with the incredible technological advances taking place around them.
The news cycle morphed in to a 24-hour beast with MX newspaper launched, Sky News expanded, newspaper websites staffed around the clock and ABC News24 established.
Add to that the growing phenomenon of social media that turned everyone with a smart phone into a news gatherer and publisher.
Following the 2009 Black Saturday disaster, the Brumby Government finally equipped its members of parliament and staff with personal digital assistants (Blackberrys) to respond to emails, view documents and browse websites whilst on the move.
Justifying tax payer expenditure on new technology for staff is never easy, but access to and understanding of new devices and applications like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn is critical in the new world.
Belatedly, Parliament was also brought into the digital age with live audio streaming.
With MPs ‘tweeting’ live from the floor, Parliament and the Goverment have never been so scrutinised. Technology is helping to shine the light in crevices rarely seen before, such as the Upper House.
These days, governments are well equipped as they join the ‘communication battle’.
They have all the tools, but using them to respond to the intense media demands for comment and to continue to engage in community dialogue is quite a challenge.
As we’ve seen around the world, when the opposing forces are better equipped, organised and connected than the goverment it’s difficult to turn the tide.
The Government would be wise to stay ahead of the technological curve.