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Shadow Minister claims broadband plan is an election marketing strategy.

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Tuesday 19 June 2007

Shadow Minister claims broadband plan is an election marketing strategy


TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Opposition is continuing to insist this morning that the Government's $2-billion broadband plan is nothing but a pork barrel in its most marginal seats.

A leaked email from the Communications Minister's office shows 40 Coalition electorates were labelled a "top priority" for broadband, while not a single Labor seat made the list.

The Prime Minister says there's no favouritism for Government-held seats, but Labor says the broadband plan is an election marketing strategy.

From Canberra, Gillian Bradford reports.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: For a while there Labor did seem to have the broadband issue all to itself. But the Government managed a late showstopper yesterday with a promise all Australians will have access to high-speed broadband in just a couple of years.

The Communications Minister, Helen Coonan.

HELEN COONAN: We are now offering something that hasn't been offered before, and that is 100 per cent coverage.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: Some farmers agree with the Government and think a big improvement on not much is well worth having. But others think rural areas, because they're getting a wireless service and not a fiber connection, are getting an inferior product.

Labor's Communications Spokesman, Stephen Conroy

STEPHEN CONROY: Because Australians deserve better than in the shadow of an election, John Howard becoming a convert to broadband and making a policy announcement that delivers a two-tier outcome. If you're in the five capital cities, you'll get decent broadband. If you're in the rest of Australia, you're going to get a second-class outcome.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: The Government can als o expect to be prodded again today about why Helen Coonan's office - before the broadband plan had even been signed off - had made a list of "40 top priority electorates". A leaked email shows all of those seats are held by the Coalition, and most of them are marginal.

Labor's Stephen Conroy.

STEPHEN CONROY: It's all about grubby politics and how can we round up as many votes as we can as quickly as we can with this election ploy? And so it's quite clear that they've been delaying a final decision while they've been getting together. They're election campaign material, that's what it's been about. It's a very cynical operation, and I think Australians will see through it.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: Peter Andren is the independent member for the regional New South Wales seat of Calare. He's wondering why his electorate didn't get a mention in the top 40.

PETER ANDREN: It's very strange that there are 40 seats, they're not all in rural and regional areas as the Prime Minister would suggest, and as far as I can tell, they're the 40 most marginal seats in the country. It strikes me that it's a blatant bit of pork barrelling.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: The Communications Minister, Helen Coonan, though, says nothing should be read into the fact all the priority electorates are held by the Coalition.

HELEN COONAN: There's nothing sinister about this, it's simply you've got to start somewhere and prepare maps, they're all prepared and they're all released on the day that the announcement was made.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: But all 40 of those areas were Coalition areas, it doesn't look good.

HELEN COONAN: Well look, I think that sounds - if I may say so - very cynical. I think the point would be true if anyone got an early look at them. Not even my colleagues had these maps, and part of preparing this whole plan has been to know where it goes. Now, I make no apology for knowing where this is going to be installed. It affects everyone and that's why all of these coverage maps are available.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: But why were they all Coalition seats?

HELEN COONAN: Well, that was just the order in which they were prepared.

TONY EASTLEY: The Communications Minister, Helen Coonan, ending Gillian Bradford's report.