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Labor's broadband leaves rural western Victorians unconnected.

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Federal Member for Wannon

Hamilton Office 190 Gray St, HAMILTON VIC 3300 Warrnambool Office 73 Kepler St WARRNAMBOOL VIC 3280 Freecall 1300 131 692 E W

Federal Member for Wannon

6 November 2008


Labor’s ill-considered National Broadband Network election promise is in ruins and people living in Western Victoria are unlikely to see higher speed broadband for many years, Federal Member for Wannon, David Hawker, said today.

Mr Hawker said delivering fast broadband communications via fibre optic cable to 98 percent of Australians was Labor’s flagship election commitment to regional Australia.

“On election to office, Labor cancelled the Coalition’s $1 billion OPEL contract which would have been delivering fast broadband services to local communities by now,” Mr Hawker said. “Instead, Labor is offering $4.7 billion as a subsidy to a fibre optic network estimated to cost as much as $25 billion which will focus primarily on the cities,” he said.

“After a six-month delay, tenders will close for the supply of the network in three weeks time. But there may be no tenderers.

“Telstra has said it will only tender if it is guaranteed windfall profits and the alternative Terria consortium has lost three of its partners. If Telstra were to win the contract, they say that it would take five years to build the network in the five major capital cities and another three years before regional communities would benefit. What’s more, the speeds on offer would be less than most city people are already able to access.”

Mr Hawker said any successful tenderer should be required to service regional areas first.

“If the Government’s contribution is to be worth anything, it must be directed to delivering fast broadband speeds to those who don’t have them now. What a waste if the taxpayers $4.7 billion is squandered on simply duplicating fibre optic cables in the cities which will deliver slower broadband speeds than already available.

“Labor needs to realize that it’s rural Australians who are missing out on fast broadband - it is already available to those in the cities. Labor has bungled its broadband policy and rural Western Victorians are already suffering.

“A sweetheart deal with Telstra which delivers more profits to Telstra but no new services to regional Australians would be farcical.”

Mr Hawker said Labor owed the people of Western Victoria an explanation. They cancelled the OPEL contract but have nothing to offer rural businesses and residents as an alternative.

“When will rural Australia get Labor’s broadband and how much will it cost?”

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Media contact: Jane Templeton (03) 5572 1100