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Senators debate rural and regional communications

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The National Farmers’ Federation today welcomed the statement by the Minister for Communications, the Information Economy and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston that applying the customer service guarantee to the provision of 64kpbs digital data capability was a ‘reasonable proposition’

Senator Richard Alston was speaking during a debate on regional and rural Communications, which also involved AI.P Senator Ksre T im dy and Dem ocrats Senator Vicki Bourne at the ‘Connecting the Country Conference’ in Albury Wodonga.

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The two-day Conference is sponsored by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Optus, Telstra, Austar, Charles Sturt University, La Trobe University, Cinemedia and Rural Press.

The debate between the three major political spokespersons for telecommunications was a lively affair covering a range of issues including Universal Service Obligation, Privatisation of Telstra, mobile networks, price of phone calk and the customer service guarantee.

NFF’s President, Mr Ian Donges, said that one of the highlights of the debate was that all political parties strongly supported the provision of a minimum, 64kpbs digital data capabilities for all Australians regardless of where they live.

“This news will be welcomed by all rural and regional Australians who have been left behind on the telecommunications goat track for too long’’, Mr Donges said.

Mr Donges said the issue of the price of local calls was also a matter of spirited debate between the parties.

“The debate highlighted the differences between the three parties’ attitude to further privatisation of Telstra. All parties agreed that for the Government to completely upgrade services would require funds outside of normal government revenues”, Mr Donges said.

Senator Alston welcomed the ACCC’s declaration of ISDN, which should encourage competition and hopefully reduce prices. Senator Lundy stated the ALP commitment that telecommunications should be affordable for all Australians and Senator Boume · that all Australians should have access to telecommunications at comparable costs and this may require the provision of subsidies.

All three senators fielded questions from the audience who welcomed the opportunity to question in depth the senators representing the ALP, Coalition and the Democrats

For further information:

Ian Donges President, NFF 0419 613 349

Dr Wendy Craik Executive Director, NFF 0419 257 469

NlV House 1 1-16 Brisbane X v rn u r BAjrroNi act Mud

PC Dux E 10 KJngsrnn ACT 260» AVS'lTRAt.t A

Tel 61 2 6 2 '?

Fix 61 2 62'A 2VU