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Communications to Australia's External Territories to be Examined

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Media Statement - S25/98 Page 1 of/2/

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M e d i a

[Michael Ronaldson, Parliamentary Secretary] [Departmental |

R e l e a s eTHE HON ALEX SC Minister for Regional Development, Territories and I 19 March 1998 S25/98


The Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories is set to inquire into communications and telecommunications within Australia's external territories.

The Territories Minister, Alex Somlyay, welcomed the inquiry. "This is a vital issue for people living in Australia's external territories because residents of the territories are experiencing a variety of difficulties such as access to Internet and changes to television broadcast signals," Mr Somlyay said.

"Parliamentary Committees are very good ways for the Parliament to examine specific issues and to hear concerns and views from individuals and organisations face to face," he said.

"The Government has a commitment to deliver the same level of access to communications services in these remote places as are currently enjoyed by fellow citizens in comparable areas of mainland Australia.

"The terms of reference for the inquiry include an examination of the communications services now available on the external territories and a comparison of the services with those available in Australia generally.

"Further the Committee will identify the elements of a comprehensive and modem communications service required by the residents of the external territories for internal use and for communication with Australia and the world," Mr Somlyay said.

He said a number of communications issues have been raised with him by residents including television and broadcasting service access, the upgrading of the standard telephone service and ability to participate in the growing online economy.

"I understand that the Committee will hold hearings on Cocos, Christmas and Norfolk Islands. Evidence will be taken from residents of other external territories including the Australian Antarctic Territory.

"The timetable for this inquiry is naturally a matter for the committee to consider. However I am pleased to advise that the closing date for submissions is 24 April 1998, which will allow a speedy start to the process," Mr Somlyay said.

He said further information can be obtained from the Secretariat of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories on 02 6277 4564.

* * * * * *

Further information: Graeme Hal let (Minister's Office) 02-6277 7060

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