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The Nationals deliver on regional telecommunications.



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The Hon Mark Vaile MP Leader of The Nationals Minister for Trade

17 August 2005

THE NATIONALS DELIVER ON REGIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS

The Nationals in Government have helped deliver the biggest boost to regional telecommunications in Australia’s history, the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of The Nationals, Mark Vaile, said today.

The $3.1 billion package will deliver better mobile phone and broadband internet services in regional Australia now, and secure them in the future through a perpetual Communications Fund.

“The seven million people who live in regional Australia need high quality phone and internet services, and they need the assurance that those services will not fall behind as new technologies are rolled out in the future,” Mr Vaile said.

“The Government’s decision to sell the rest of Telstra has enabled The Nationals to help secure the fundamental reforms that are needed to fund new infrastructure, encourage competition and safeguard services.

“Our $3.1 billion package includes a $2 billion Communications Fund. I proposed this fund to future-proof regional telecommunications in the long term. The proceeds of the fund will roll out new technologies and address areas of market failure.

“The proceeds will be allocated on a competitive basis in response to regular reviews of regional telecommunications. The reviews will be a requirement of the Telstra sale legislation.

“The Government will also spend $1.1 billion over the next four years to upgrade mobile and broadband internet services in regional Australia now. The spending can be expected to leverage even more investment from the private sector.

“The Government will now require Telstra to introduce operational separation for

its wholesale and retail business units. Telstra will be required to deal with its own retail arm and other companies on the same terms and conditions.

“There will also be stronger competition regulation, with additional resources for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and a strengthened enforcement role for the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

“The Government will impose new retail price controls on Telstra, which will ensure parity in the local call prices offered to regional and metropolitan consumers.

“We will maintain the Universal Service Obligation, which requires Telstra to guarantee access to standard phone services, and improve the Customer Service Guarantee, which sets minimum timeframes for the installation and repair of phone services.

“The Nationals have done what we were elected to do. As a result, many more businesses will be able to do more of their work online. They will be able to compete more effectively, which will create jobs. More ordinary Australians in

regional areas will now have access to the services that people in the cities take for granted, such as reliable mobile phone services and higher internet download speeds.

“In contrast, the Labor Party has offered nothing to this debate except criticism,” Mr Vaile said.

Contact: Richard Forbes 02 6277 7420 / 0418 273 475