Bill Shorten, the leader of Australia’s opposition Labor, last week announced that should his party win government it would introduce coding and digital technologies lessons into primary schools as a “national priority”. “Coding is the literacy of the 21st century,” Shorten said. “Under Labor, every young Australian will have the chance to read, write and work with the global language of the digital age.”
Earlier today, Australia’s current Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was asked by Shorten whether he supported plans to teach kids to code. Abbott responded by mocking the idea, bizarrely conflating teaching children a skill with forcing them into work:
“Let’s just understand exactly what the Leader of the Opposition has asked. He said that he wants primary school kids to be taught coding so they can get the jobs of the future. Does he want to send them all out to work at the age of 11? Is that what he wants to do? Seriously? Seriously?”
Obviously not. Who would take plans to teach children a valuable modern skill and equate that with child labour? But Abbott’s incredulity stems from an overt hostility towards information technology, an opinion that he has expressed before. This is what Abbott had to say about social media:
“I’ll leave social media to its own devices. Social media is kind of like electronic graffiti and I think that in the media, you make a big mistake to pay too much attention to social media. You wouldn’t report what’s sprayed up on the walls of buildings.”
It’s astonishing that such a Luddite has risen to a position of power in one of the largest mixed market economies in the world. I wonder how Abbott thinks that wealth is sustained.