Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Treasurer says Cabinet has discussed high-speed broadband plans.

Download WordDownload Word



This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Parliamentary Library.


It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in an y other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.


For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.





Tues day 5 June 2007

Treasurer says Cabinet has discussed high-speed broadband plans


MARK BANNERMAN: High speed broadband was on the agenda when Federal cabinet met in Canberra today. 


ruction of a so called "fibre to the node" network has been held up for more than a year with Telstra and the competition watchdog, the ACCC locked in a dispute over regulation. 


With Labor's promise to build a high speed broadband network, using money from the Future Fund, the Government's been under intense pressure to find a way through the impasse. 


The Government won't say exactly what cabinet has decided, if anything, with the Treasurer Peter Costello only confirming the roll-out of broadband could happen quickly and that the ACCC will still have a role. 


From Canberra Peta Donald reports. 


PETA DONALD: When it comes to Internet speeds, Australia lags behind other countries. Earlier this year Labor upped the ante with its promise to spend up big and provide high speed broadband to most homes across the country. 


The Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd. 


KEVIN RUDD: Labor's policy is clear. We intend to invest up to $4.7-billion over a five year period to construct a high speed national broadband system of 12 megabits per second for 98 per cent of Australians. That is our commitment to be done in partnership with the private sector. We think it's necessary to do this because if Government doesn't act, it won't happen. 


PETA DONALD: The reason a high speed broadband network hasn't happened so far is because of a dispute between Telstra and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. It's to do with how much Telstra should be able to charge its rivals to use its existing copper wire network to deliver broadband. 


TELSTRA ADVERTISEMENT: The ACCC has put a heavy tag on broadband in this country. Help us lay a tackle on the regulator so Australia can kick some broadband goals. 


PETA DONALD: With ads like that, Telstra has launched a public relations war against the ACCC. This was Telstra's Phil Burgess on the ABC last month. 


PHIL BURGESS: The Government has to decide whether it's going to enforce its policy on the ACCC or whether it allows the ACCC to continue to be a rogue agency that makes its own policies and follows its own will. That is not the way that things should work. 


PETA DONALD: The ACCC argued that it was only doing its job and if Telstra would submit more detail about its proposal, it could assess whether the right thing would be done by consumers. 


Today, Cabinet considered a plan to break the deadlock. The Treasurer, Peter Costello. 


PETER COSTELLO: Cabinet had a very good discussion today about broadband. We want to see a situation where fibre to the node is built, built quickly and built on terms which make it affordable to consumers. This is a very big point. It is not just having it built but it is having it built at a price that will make it affordable for consumers.  


Now, there are at least two companies or consortiums that are offering to do that at the moment. One is Telstra and the other is the G9, neither of which, incidentally, require any public money. So we had a good discussion about that and about the way in which this might proceed. 


PETA DONALD: As for any more detail than that, the Treasurer was giving little away. Newspaper reports today suggest the Government is planning to overhaul the regulatory regime, setting up an independent panel of experts and perhaps making Telstra and its rivals put their proposals forward in a public tender process. The reports say the powers of the ACCC could be curbed. 


This afternoon, Mr Costello was adamant that the ACCC would not be bypassed. 


PETER COSTELLO: No, the ACCC has more experience in relation to this than any other regulator. 


PETA DONALD: The Nationals leader, Mark Vaile said there'll be a significant announcement about broadband soon and it will include services to the bush. 


MARK VAILE: I can give you an undertaking that the, what, from what we have seen, in the access to broadband across regional Australia and remote Australia will be significantly improved well up to the expectations… 


JOURNALIST: Up to the 900… 


MARK VAILE: Well, up to the expectations of those people who live in that part of Australia. 


JOURNALIST: What the market expects… 


MARK VAILE: (laughs) Thanks everybody. 


PETA DONALD: Whenever that announcement does come, for Labor's Kevin Rudd, it will be too late. 


KEVIN RUDD: People are sceptical when three months before and election, Mr Howard suddenly discovers an interest in climate change, suddenly discovers an interest in high speed broadband, and only three months to go to a poll, 11 years already having passed. 


MARK BANNERMAN: Labor Leader Kevin Rudd ends that report from Pete Donald in Canberra.