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Regional telecommunications.

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REGIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS Senator Alston today paid tribute to the resourcefulness of regional communities who met with the Minister during his recent visit to Northern New South Wales and Central Queensland.

'I would like to thank all those people who took the time to meet with me,' Senator Alston said.

'Over the last few weeks I was able to consult directly with regional communities, looking at telecommunications issues in rural and regional Australia, and gathering information and feedback on how to further improve services.'

'I came away from this trip with renewed confidence in the ability of regional communities to assist in the development of solutions to the telecommunications issues confronting them.'

The Minister welcomed the opportunity to hear first hand the issues confronting regional communities, particularly mobile phone coverage, phone connections and fault rectification, Internet access, postal services and television coverage. It also provided a chance to evaluate the success of Government programs such as Networking the Nation, the $150 million tender for untimed local call rates in extended zones, the $120 million Television Fund and the $25 million for continuous mobile coverage on Australia's major highways.

The communities of Coffs Harbour, Lismore, Narrabri, Tamworth, Walcha, Armidale, Murwullimbah, Ocean Shores, Bundaberg, Agnes Water, 1770, Mackay, Bowen, Alpha, Jericho, Barcaldine and Emerald took part in round-table meetings and forums with the Minister.

'The Government is considering its response to the independent Telecommunications Service Inquiry report and this tour will provide valuable first hand input to the upcoming response,' Senator Alston said.

The Government's response will provide an opportunity to address a number of the problem areas identified in the report-putting in place arrangements to improve telecommunications services and standards in rural and regional areas.

The Government has indicated that it will not proceed to the full privatisation of Telstra until it is satisfied arrangements exist to deliver adequate services, in particular to rural and regional Australia. The Government's immediate priority is to get more services into rural and regional areas.

At the present time the Government is not satisfied that such arrangements are in place and believes more work needs to be done, including in the context of the response to the Inquiry into the adequacy of service levels in rural and regional areas.

Media contact: Sasha Grebe, Senator Alston's office 02 6277 7480 or 0409 445 246 Website:

28 March 2001

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