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Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Page: 282


Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (14:49): My question is to the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts. How is the government improving broadband for families and businesses in regional Australia? What benefits will this deliver for jobs in regional communities?

Mr CREAN (HothamMinister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (14:49): I thank the member for Kingston for her question. I know she knows the fundamental importance of getting broadband into her community because I was with her earlier this year and we were talking about the benefits for the residents of Willunga in her electorate.

Today the Prime Minister has already indicated the important announcement that the government has made about the contract with NBN Co. to launch the satellites that will bring faster, more reliable broadband access to the remotest parts of our country. Why is this important? It is because we want every part of this patchwork economy to have the opportunity to take advantage of the enormous growth potential this nation has.

We have already indicated that this government in its four years has created 700,000 jobs, the fastest rate of employment growth ever in the history of this country. Treasury estimates indicate that by the year 2020 there will be another 1.6 million jobs—in other words, more than double what we have already achieved as the greatest achievement. We want to make sure those benefits are spread. We can do that only if we invest in the essential infrastructure that enables communities and regions to take advantage of an economy in transition and to diversify their economic base. They can do that only if they can get access to the infrastructure that enables it, and fast-speed broadband is one essential element of it.

Anyone who doubts the benefits of what this will do for regional Australia should have a look at Tasmania for a start and the Launceston hospital's ability to deliver health services to regional parts or have a look in Smithton at what the two schools are doing to access the opportunities for training kids in their region through world-class activities and e-education opportunities. Those who doubt it should go to Armidale, for example, and talk to the photographic company that is using fast speed broadband to establish its business in the region because it can upload as well as download activity. These are the benefits that exist out there now for those who have access to fast speed broadband. We want to ensure that the whole of the country gets it to maximise its potential. The only party that is committed to achieving this is the Labor Party. Those opposite think this can be done for a pittance and they want to give people vouchers to try and find it. They seem to think that those living in the regions should not have the same access as those who live in the cities. (Time expired)