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Nats move to protect future of country telecommunications.



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MEDIA RELEASE The Hon Mark Vaile MP Deputy Prime Minister Minister for Transport and Regional Services Leader of the Nationals

21 June 2007 103MV/2007

NATS MOVE TO PROTECT FUTURE OF COUNTRY TELECOMMUNICATIONS

The Federal Coalition Government has today introduced legislation to prevent Labor or any future Government from pinching millions of dollars set aside for improving telecommunications in rural and regional Australia, the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of The Nationals Mark Vaile said.

Mr Vaile the legislation was vital to safeguard the $2 billion Communications Fund from being raided by Kevin Rudd or any future Government and to protect the interests of country Australia.

"Under the Coalition's $2 billion Communications Fund, the interest earned from the Fund - about $400 million every three years - will go to ensuring telecommunications in country Australia keep pace with the rest of the nation," Mr Vaile said.

"If elected Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd says he will abolish the Communications Fund and use it to pay for his broadband network that will only reach the city limits and leave hundreds of thousands of people in country Australia high and dry.

"Under a Rudd Government, the $2 billion of taxpayers' money would be used to pay for a broadband network that the big telcos have said they would be prepared to fund themselves.

"Labor's 'fraudband' plan would only reach an estimated 75 per cent of the population by 2013 and Mr Rudd still refuses to detail what prices regional consumers will have to pay.

"In contrast, the Coalition will deliver high-speed broadband to 99 per cent of Australians at metropolitan comparable prices by 2009. For the remaining one percent, the Australian Government will provide a $2,750 broadband subsidy per household."

Mr Vaile said the ongoing income stream from the $2 billion perpetual Communications Fund would future-proof telecommunications in the bush.

"This legislation must be passed so country Australians don't have this vital funding stolen from them and aren't condemned to second-class telecommunication services in the future," he said.

"Labor 'fraudband' policy is another example of its contempt for rural and regional Australia."

Mr Vaile also cautioned today against believing some of the current commentary regarding OPEL and arguments over technology, costs and access.

"Some people have a commercial or political interest in tearing the OPEL network down and their

commentary should be seen in that context," Mr Vaile said.

"Some companies, including Telstra, need to take a reality check - the fact is they lost in a competitive process because their bids did not stack up. Get over it and start competing."

Media Contacts

Tanya Cleary ( Mr Vaile's Office ) 02 6277 7680 / 0418 615 280