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Labour sells out rural phone users



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MEDIA RELEASE BRUCE SCOTT MP Federal Member for Maranoa

Shadow Minister for Local Government Assistant Shadow Minister for Primary Industry & Rural Matters

LABOR SELLS OUT RURAL PHONE USERS

The Federal Government's upgrade program for rural telephone services was a failed attempt to catch up with Coalition initiatives, Bruce Scott said today.

Mr Scott, Assistant Shadow Minister for Rural Matters, said that the program, announced yesterday by Communications Minister Michael Lee, fell far short of the Coalition's policy.

"Rural Australians should know that Michael Lee has been more interested in looking after Telstra's interests than their own", Mr Scott said.

"Under Labor, the current program to upgrade digital exchanges will be completed a full three years later than under the Coalition".

On 21 November 1995, Opposition Leader John Howard promised that Telstra will be required to complete its program of digitising telephone exchanges by 1 July 1997. Mr Lee announced yesterday that he would not require this work to be finished until the year 2000.

Mr Scott said that Mr Lee's announcement also failed to offer any hope of improved access to Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) for rural Australians. The Coalition has promised that ISDN would be offered as a standard service to all Telstra customers who have lines connected to digital exchanges.

ISDN is a high speed data transfer technology able to deliver a wide range of on-line services. It can be used to facilitate services such as distance education, remote health diagnostics, electronic mail, on-line business services, and faster access to the Internet than current analog technologies.

Mr Scott said that other elements of the Coalition's policy had been directly copied by Labor, demonstrating Mr Lee's lack of policy leadership.

"Two months ago the Coalition promised that rural Australians would enjoy access by 1 July 1997 to services such as call waiting, call diversion and itemised billing.

"Obviously in a sign of panic about the coming Federal election, Mr Lee has repackaged this initiative as his own. .

"I give rural telephone users a categorical assurance that they will be better off under a Coalition Government", Mr Scott said.

END 18 January 1996

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