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Beazley’s broadband Budget blackhole.

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Senator the Hon Helen Coonan Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate

Media Release

Media Contact: Jane McMillan 0438 690 305

044/06 15 May 2006

Beazley’s Broadband Budget Blackhole

Labor’s broadband plan has failed to launch after Shadow Communications Spokesman Senator Stephen Conroy admitted today that he did not know the total cost of Kim Beazley’s proposed new network and that he would have to ‘sit down and work it out’, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, said.

“Senator Conroy admitted under questioning following his address to the Australian Telecommunications Users Group regional conference today that Labor had never suggested $2.7 billion was enough Government funding to roll out a new fibre network

across Australia,” Senator Coonan said.

“And Senator Conroy also dodged questions about how Labor would meet its promise of 98 per cent coverage without a mix of technologies.

“So even after robbing the broadband bank of $2 billion and leaving not one red cent for future communications services in the bush, he now admits that the cost of the network to Australian taxpayers would be much higher and the coverage is under a cloud. How can Senator Conroy say he is making plans for the next seven years, when his policies don’t even hang together for seven days.

“After closing the $2 billion Communications Fund and draining $757 million of the Broadband Connect money to spend on his new network where would the rest of the money come from? If he doesn’t know the total cost of the network how can he possibly know how much of the bill needed to be footed by the taxpayer?

“Would Labor then pillage money set aside for Indigenous communications? The $30 Mobile Connect funding? Or the $113 million Clever Networks funding for health and education initiatives? Where would the cash grab stop, Senator Conroy?

“Considering a fibre rollout across South Korea cost that Government $40 billion over 12 years, we might be getting close to the true cost of Labor’s network.

“Labor’s plan lacks detail, is uncosted and picks one technology that would not suit the varied geography and scattered populations across Australia.

“In contrast, I announced today the next step in the Government’s plan to keep this country connected - a Broadband Blueprint to ensure money spent on infrastructure in Australia by Federal, State and Territory and Local Governments as well as the private sector is coordinated to deliver the best outcomes for consumers.

“Shortly I will be calling for Expressions of Interest for large infrastructure projects under the $878 million Broadband Connect program to ensure people living in rural, regional and remote Australia can access faster Internet.”