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Labor's deafening silence: rural Australia still 'on hold'

5 November 2007

"IN THIS federal election campaign, Labor’s plan to cash-in rural Australia’s $2 billion Communications Fund will leave at least 87%* of the country cut off from getting the telecommunications upgrades they will need into the future,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President David Crombie said today.

"The NFF is still waiting for Labor to answer our very straight-forward question. Given Labor will spend rural Australia’s telecommunications insurance policy – the $2 billion Communications Fund – how will they guarantee rural Australians get telecommunications upgrades into the future?

"Right now, future-proofing rural telecommunications is enshrined in legislation – funded by the $2 billion Communications Fund – guaranteeing future rural service upgrades.

"From interest accrued on this dedicated perpetual Fund, rural telecommunications, including broadband and mobile services, are guaranteed funding for upgrades in the future.

"Labor’s policy fails to recognise that there is much more to telecommunications than just broadband, especially in the bush where phone and mobile services are critical to everyday life.

"The sole purpose of the Communications Fund is to finance solutions to telecommunications inadequacies across regional, rural and remote Australia on a regular basis into the future.

"But under Labor, this insurance policy will be null and void. Labor’s stated plan is to spend every last cent of the $2 billion Communications Fund on its metro-centric broadband plan – meaning, no more guaranteed funds to upgrade services in the bush!

"In spending the $2 billion Communications Fund to pay for its broadband policy, Labor knows more than 87% of the landmass misses out – that’s practically everyone outside of metropolitan and major regional areas.

"Since we exposed this glaring omission, Labor has failed to articulate their plan to guarantee funding for future service upgrades in the bush.

"In a couple of years, when the ‘satellite, wireless and microwave technology’ Labor is promising rural Australia becomes out-dated, what then? Rural Australia will be left behind because Labor failed to plan for the future.

"If Labor has any intention of addressing the future-proofing needs of rural telecommunications, then let’s see it. Otherwise, rural Australians should hold Labor accountable for their short-sightedness."

  • Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics, About Australia’s Regions 2007 [ABS Cat 3218.0].

[ENDS]

See the NFF's 2007 Federal Election Policy Platform.

Media Enquiries: Emma Keogh on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250

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