Rudd waves the billions, up go the hands. None more eagerly than NSW Premier Nathan Rees, who yesterday used his opening address to the CeBIT trade show to announce a less-than-subtle bid for some of that National Broadband Network moolah.

Referring to NSW as “Australia’s leading ICT state” [really?] and Sydney in particular as “the gateway to Australia’s digital economy” [WTF?], Rees announced the NSW National Broadband Network Taskforce. Its mission: “Securing the NBN headquarters in NSW.”

The taskforce is chaired by Graham Head, Director General of the NSW Department of Commerce, and includes Prof Mary O’Kane, NSW Chief Scientist and Scientific Engineer; Rosemary Sinclair, MD of the Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG); Dr Terry Percival from the National ICT Centre of Excellence Australia (NICTA); and Dr Alex Zelinsky, Director of the CSIRO ICT Centre.

The taskforce will also look for opportunities for NSW to benefit from the NBN rollout beyond the HQ, and ensure planning for the rollout runs smoothly.

“I have also asked the NSW Taskforce to investigate the establishment of NBN test beds in NSW, to test the next generation of applications and content in areas such as smart metering, education, housing and health,” Rees said.

Rees’ shameless pimping of NSW and blatant flatter of Senator Conroy led to good-natured laughter, though one audience member told Crikey that Rees sounded “a bit desperate”.

Then again, I reckon if I were Nathan Rees — presiding over the nation’s highest unemployment and a disintegrating infrastructure against the background sounds of knives being sharpened — I’d be desperate too.

Meanwhile feedback from CeBIT’s first day suggests that while there’s less buzz and excitement on the trade show floor, there’s good business being done.

Connie Pandos from software vendor Intranet Dashboard says she’s getting more and better-qualified leads than ever before.

“The global financial crisis was something that affected business, definitely, but internationally confidence came back immediately after the election [of Barack Obama],” she said.

Compared with last year, sales pitches are tending to be less about amazing cool new technologies, and more about working more efficiently and reducing costs.

“We’re getting plenty of enquiries from businesses looking for lower-cost options,” said Marc Lehmann, CEO of online accounting software service Saasu.

However there are still some archetypical trade show gimmicks to attract attention. Internet hosting provider Netregistry has some “naughty nurses” at their stand, while coupon-distributing startup is handing out free money — yes, actual US greenbacks. I wonder if anyone’s told them that stapling their business cards to dollar bills is “defacing currency”, something that’s a federal crime in the US?

Disclosure: Stilgherrian is a panelist at CeBIT tomorrow as part of the [email protected] conference stream.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey