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Labor to scrap regional telecommunicationms programs.

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Labor to Scrap Regional Telecommunications Programs Labor's Shadow Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner, the man who would control the purse strings in a Labor Government has confirmed the worst fears of regional communities that vital telecommunications programs would be abolished under Labor, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston said today.

'In attempting to curry favour with the financial markets, Lindsay Tanner has indicated that Labor will scrap Federal Government programs for regional, rural and remote communities,' Senator Alston said.

'Singling out the highly successful Networking the Nation programme, Mr Tanner said:

"The continued allocation of significant funds from the sale of Telstra to a large number of small projects is highly questionable." (Media Release, 24 May 2001)

'Networking the Nation has allocated funding for nearly 500 community projects to date, improving mobile phone coverage, Internet access and enhanced service delivery.

'This latest peek under the covers of Labor's secret agenda confirms the recent comments by the Shadow Treasurer Simon Crean that Labor is considering cutting funding to many crucial programs. Mr Crean placed all Coalition programs under threat when he declared:

"Exactly….you will have a clear indication as to what we are proposing by way of spending initiatives and the costings for them before the next election'.

When asked if this would involve junking Coalition programs, he responded:

'if necessary, where we have to rearrange the finances or the programs to achieve that'.

'This comes hot on the heels on the alarming slip up by Labor's Shadow Financial Services Minister, Steven Conroy;

'we're going to have to make choices between are we going to cut programs? Are we going to increase some taxes? Those are the really tough choices we are now confronted with after having seen the numbers in the last 48 hours'

'Of course Labor has form on this matter. Before the 1998 election, Labor promised to take all the remaining money out of the successful NtN program and return it to consolidated revenue. That is take away all the Government's funding for regional telecommunications.

'Hardly surprising given that Labor voted against the Telstra social bonus - labelling programs aimed at improving regional services as a 'bribe', at the last election it threatened to do away with the Networking the Nation program and it has labelled the creation of Telstra CountryWide as a 'sop'.

'Labor who in Government and Opposition have never shown the slightest concern for telecommunications services outside the capital cities is clearly indicating, just like in 1998, that important initiatives are under a huge threat.

Media Contact: Sasha Grebe, Minister's office 0409 445 246 Website:

27 May

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