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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5660

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (5:01 PM) —There are, of course, major budget commitments in the Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy portfolio. The National Broadband Network is the largest infrastructure project in Australia’s history, one that this government is very proud of. It will drive future productivity and growth across the economy and deliver high-speed broadband to all Australians, no matter where they live. The government has made an appropriate provision for the NBN in the 2010-11 budget, subject to a response by government to the NBN Implementation Study.

When the government announced the NBN in April last year we also announced that a detailed implementation study would be commissioned. That study is now complete and was released by the minister on 6 May. After months of detailed analysis, the study confirms that high-speed broadband over a wholesale-only network for all Australians is achievable. It can also be built on a financially viable basis with affordable prices for consumers. The government will provide a formal response to this report in the coming months, after reviewing public submissions received on the study.

The 2009-10 budget made provision for the government’s initial investment of $4.7 billion towards the NBN. So far, the government has made equity injections to NBN Co. totalling $312 million, and shareholder ministers will continue to make equity available to NBN Co. as required. Our equity injections are also made public as they occur through the notices tabled under the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997.

In the 2010-11 budget the government will provide a further $1.8 billion to the portfolio to deliver its priorities. It will provide the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy with funding of $501.6 million. This is an increase of $106.9 million from the previous year. This reflects the rollout of the Regional Backbone Blackspots Program and the acceleration of the switch-over to digital-only television transmission. This will be offset, in part, by the completion of the NBN Implementation Study and termination of the Connect Australia program in 2009-10.

The government will also provide the ABC with funding of $972.6 million, an increase of $40.6 million from 2009-10. The Australian Communications and Media Authority, with funding of $123.7 million, has an increase of $19.9 million from 2009-10, and the SBS, with funding of some $217 million, has an increase of $3.9 million from 2009-10 levels.

The government will also provide $375.4 million over 12 years under the digital television switch-over program. This funding will assist commercial and national broadcasters to provide a digital television satellite service for those Australians who are unable to receive digital terrestrial transmission. It will provide for transmission of digital free-to-air television services for commercial and national broadcasters from a new satellite platform, the Viewer Access Satellite Television service; assist a number of communities to upgrade existing analog self-help transmission facilities to transmit national broadcasting services in digital; and provide for assistance through the Satellite Phone Subsidy Scheme for the installation of satellite reception equipment to eligible households currently served by analog television self-help retransmission sites that will not be converted to digital.

The Digital Switchover Taskforce has been working effectively and cooperatively with broadcasters to undertake the planning needed to switch off analog TV. We are just 14 days away from seeing the first region in Australia—the Mildura-Sunraysia region—switching to digital-only TV. In conclusion, the measures that were announced in the 2010-11 budget will encourage a vibrant, sustainable and internationally competitive digital economy in Australia, which will assist in securing our prosperity into the future.