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Regional Australia endorses Federal Government's telecommunications package.



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Regional Australia endorses Federal Government's telecommunications package The Government is pleased with the strong endorsement by representatives of key regional groups of its recently announced $163 million response to the Inquiry the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts said today.

'Despite these strong endorsements, one group simply can't bring itself to acknowledge the benefits that the package offers to regional and rural Australia - the Labor Party,' Senator Alston said.

'The Labor Party is clearly out of touch with regional communities over telecommunications issues.

'Labor's Senator Kate Lundy labelled the $50.5 million for improved mobile phone coverage in regional areas as "farcical" and criticised the "Coalition's willingness to spend taxpayers money on bandaids," (Media Release, 17 May 2001)

'The Shadow Minister, Stephen Smith has dismissed the $1 billion Telstra social bonus fund as "bribes" and Telstra Country Wide as a "sop."

'Given this level of opposition to improvements in regional telecommunications it's little wonder that ABC Western Queensland pointed out that; "It appears, however, for Mr Smith that he's out of step with most of the lobby groups," (16 May 2001).

'It's clear that key regional stakeholders don't agree with Labor,' Senator Alston said.

The vice-president of Mackay Canegrowers, Ted Bussey; "It's a step in the right direction as far as we're concerned. I am pleased at the amount of money they have allocated to solve this problem. And I'm very hopeful."

"When we spoke to the members of the inquiry, they listened to our concerns. They took on board what we were saying. And I always felt confident that they did hear what we were saying ? that we weren't just there belting the can. We had some problems and they needed to be addressed. And I felt then that they were listening to us." (ABC Tropical North, 16/05/01)

The executive director of the Queensland Local Government Association, Greg Hallam; "Unmistakably good news for rural communities and regional communities across Australia…Look, we think that will do the trick… So we think it's a very positive move." (ABC North Queensland, 16/05/01)

Paul Carter from the Western Australian Farmers Federation; "It certainly means that there'll be greater, greater services available for rural and remote farmers." (ABC Goldfields, 16/05/01)

The President of Coolgardie Shire Council, Sandra Trenowden; "We did put in a submission to the Senate Committee when they came to Kalgoorlie about the lack of communication facilities that we did have in our Shire. I can't drive between Kambalda and Coolgardie without my phone dropping out and the same between Kambalda and Kalgoorlie. So it'll be tremendous." (ABC Goldfields, 16/05/01)

Ray Chiantor from the Goldfields-Esperance Development Commission; "Well I think it needs to be welcomed.

Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at Southern Cross University, Gerard Goggin; "I mean, I think we should welcome the Minister's announcement - and I think Alston's actually quite an interesting Minister - and I think there's some really interesting things there in terms of policy.

Graham Blatch, NSW Farmers Federation; "And this will go a way to adjusting the inequities between city and country."

Professor Mohamed Khadra, head of the Greater Murray Clinical School; "Gee, I'd welcome it, because it places telecommunications as a major issue for rural and regional Australia." (ABC Riverina, 16/05/01)

'Labor must stop holding back regional Australia,' Senator Alston said.

'All Labor can do is carp and criticise, instead of offering a single alternative initiative for the very people who Stephen Smith himself has recognised as being "traditionally the most disadvantaged by communications policy," (ATUG Conference, 8 May 2001).

Media contact: Sasha Grebe, Minister's office, 02 6277 7480 Website: www.richardalston.dcita.gov.au

18 May 2001

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