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Thursday, 12 March 2009
Page: 2566


Mrs MIRABELLA (9:42 AM) —I rise this morning to comment on a very important aspect of government failure and policy, particularly as it relates to rural and regional Australia. Some on the other side may laugh and mock at the lack of resources. The rhetoric is great: ad nauseam, they seem to get the lines and trot them out like wound-up robots. But people on the ground who live in real towns and cities, not in the make-believe pretend world of spin doctors but in the real world in rural and regional Australia, know some things for certain. One of those things is that this government’s approach to regional telecommunications is an absolute joke. Whether it is through sheer malice that they make the assumption there are swathes of rural and regional Australia who did not vote for them at the last election, therefore why bother, or whether it is through sheer incompetence, it is inexcusable, nonetheless.

Labor’s cancellation of the Howard government’s OPEL contract was an absolute act of political opportunism. It was one of the worst decisions they could have made for people living in rural and regional Australia. And it is not just businesses that need access to the latest in telecommunications—it is schools; it is households; it is emerging online businesses as well, many of which have been successful and are developing in rural and regional parts of the country. But it is very interesting to note that very little has been promised and, in fact, even less can be delivered by this government when it comes to telecommunications in rural and regional Australia.

I would like to read a paragraph from Optus’s submission to the Senate inquiry into the Labor government’s proposed National Broadband Network. They have quite correctly slammed the Rudd government. This is what they said:

The cancellation of OPEL was a lost opportunity for Australian business and consumers, particularly in the bush. Almost 900,000 premises across rural and remote Australia were to have been delivered metro-equivalent services at metro-comparable prices. Many of those premises would have been receiving services now.

Optus’s submission does expose the Labor government’s indifference and inability to actually deliver for country Australia. Kevin Rudd’s approach and that of his minister is shameful. (Time expired)