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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6428

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (12:30 PM) —In the 2009-10 budget the key commitments in the Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Portfolio are as follows. The first is the National Broadband Network, which will help secure long-term productivity growth, global economic competitiveness and the creation of jobs. Considerable progress has been made to implement the National Broadband Network since its establishment was announced on 7 April this year. The government has established a new company which will invest up to $43 billion over eight years to build the network. The government has also commenced the implementation study process, with the government seeking a lead adviser to prepare a report to the government in early 2010 on, among other things, the operating and governance arrangements for the NBN company, detailed network design, and options to attract private sector investment in the company.

The government has received over 100 submissions in response to the discussion paper on reforms to the existing telecommunications regime. It has received more than 60 submissions for the $250 million Regional Broadband Blackspots Program and progressed negotiations with the Tasmanian government to commence an early rollout of a fibre-to-the-premises network in Tasmania. Regional, rural and remote communities will also realise the benefits of broadband through the Rural and Regional National Broadband Network Initiative. This supplements the government’s response to the regional telecommunications review, which provided an initial $60 million investment in regional communications, including for education, health and emergency services projects, greater access to satellite phones and an expansion of computer and internet access for remote Indigenous communities.

Substantial new funding totalling $185.3 million over three years will also be provided to the ABC and SBS. This will meet Labor’s election commitment to enable the ABC and SBS to expand their range of Australian drama and content. Importantly, it will also enable the introduction of a digital children’s channel. Our community broadcasters will also benefit from the management and broadcasting training available to them under the national training program at a cost of $2.5 million over four years.

On digital television, additional funding of almost $140 million over three years will help Australians get ready for digital television. This funding will support the government’s digital television switchover program in regional South Australia, in Victoria and in Queensland. National ICT Australia has been provided in the budget with funding certainty up to 2014-15 following the government’s commitment to provide $185.5 million over the four years from 2011-12. This will allow National ICT Australia to continue to generate significant economic and social returns for Australia. For the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, $7.5 million will be provided over four years. This will enable ACCAN to better represent consumer interests in the telecommunications market, including the development of co-regulatory mechanisms, resulting in better outcomes for consumers and industry.

Finally, the expansion of the Do Not Call Register will enable the registration of all telephone and fax numbers. This will help to protect businesses, fax users and emergency service providers from unwanted telemarketing calls and fax-marketing representations. The expansion of this register will cost $4.7 million over four years, but it has been the subject of much debate in this parliament over a number of years. The Rudd government is acting on the concerns that are there in the community on this issue. These costs will be largely recovered from the telemarketing and fax-marketing industries. In conclusion, the measures that have been announced in the 2009-10 budget will encourage a vibrant, sustainable and internationally competitive digital economy in Australia, something that is required to ensure that Australia can compete on the information highway, which is as important to this century as the rail highway was to the 19th century. (Time expired)