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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26346

Senator COLBECK (3:20 PM) —It is interesting that rather than doing what Labor should be doing at this point, which is developing and expressing some policies, all they can do is come into this place and essentially just drop out a good old Labor slag—pick somebody out and spend all of the take note motion trying to run down a minister. This is someone who has been in a complicated portfolio for only 26 days, as has been put on the record by members on the other side, yet all they do is come in here and play the person. At this point in the electoral cycle I would have thought that Labor would be much more interested in doing something constructive such as developing policy. Where is the Labor policy on telecommunications?

Senator Mackay —We won't sell Telstra.

Senator COLBECK —That is a great policy. Just one policy: don't sell Telstra. That is all there is to the Labor policy; there is no policy on rolling out ADSL to regional communities. It is interesting that one of the local members in my neck of the woods is trying to make a name for himself on rolling out ADSL in regional communities. Interestingly enough, he is sending out out-of-date information. Someone who claims to be an expert on ADSL in regional communities is sending out information that does not have any bearing anymore. He is trying to get people to respond and telling them that he is going to give assistance to get ADSL hooked up to their properties and yet the information that he is sending them is out of date.

They come in here and slag off at the minister, yet they are running around giving out information that is out of date. They have no policy themselves. They try to make mileage out of good government policy to increase telecommunications to the community. They cannot get it right. They do not know what is going on. This government has a very strong record with respect to telecommunications in regional areas. The rollout of the HiBIS program that is being undertaken at the moment is a great example of that. The threshold for getting ADSL into a regional community used to be something in the order of 150 expressions of interest. The HiBIS program has enabled that to be cut in half. To some of the smaller communities in regional Australia, that means a great deal. It means that they can have access to affordable, high-speed broadband communications at a reasonable cost. They have been assisted by that excellent policy put in place by the federal government.

The Labor Party do not have a policy except for saying, `Don't sell Telstra.' That is the extent of their policy—just don't sell Telstra. Do not expand services; do not provide services to people in regional Australia; just don't sell Telstra. It takes a lot of imagination to come up with that! All they can do is come in here and slag off at the minister. I would have thought that their time would have been much better spent understanding what the government's programs really are. If they want to improve on them, let them have a go. I do not have a problem with that; I would welcome it. That is just too difficult—all they can do is come in here and play the person. They have no policy and show no initiative. Instead they slag off at the current minister and, in the process of doing that, have a go at the former minister as well. Why not? They have nothing else to talk about—they have no policy and they have nothing that they have developed. It really becomes a fairly fruitless exercise. They waste the parliament's time by having a personal run-off at somebody.

They do not have anything positive to say. They do not have any policy—nothing like the government is doing, which is providing ADSL high-speed broadband connections to every doctor's surgery in the country. That is a constructive initiative—something that is positive. The medical profession are quite excited about the fact that they are going to have low-cost access to broadband right across Australia—whether it be satellite, ISDN or ADSL. They are quite excited about that. Think about what that will mean for health outcomes for people across the country. Again, that is something that has been put in place by a positive policy from the Australian government. Of course the Labor Party are only interested in making personal attacks. They do not have any positive policies—just don't sell Telstra. That is really imaginative. It takes all of a couple of seconds to think that one up. They do not have anything positive to offer or any initiatives to present. They just come into this place and slag off at the minister. (Time expired)