Thursday 23 November 2006 - Part 2 - Pages 28 - 79



[2.30 p.m.]
Mr FINCH Question - Mr President, my question is to the honourable Treasurer. Has the Government applied for funding under the Federal Government's Broadband Connect fund for rural and remote Australia and, if it has not made an application, will it consider doing so now that the deadline has been extended from 30 November to 18 December?
Mr AIRD - I thank the honourable member for hisquestion. Mr President, the Government lodged a formal response to the Australian Government's Broadband Connect requests for expressions of interest in July 2006. I also wrote to the Honourable Senator Helen Coonan in August outlining the Government's plan for the commercial development of our Connect Tasmania optic-fibre network. In that letter I expressed hope that the project would be eligible for Broadband Connect funding. You can always hope. I also wrote to the Honourable Senator Abetz seeking his support.
Mr Harriss - Hear, hear.
Members laughing.
Mr AIRD - I do not know if he is a factional colleague of the honourable member for Huon but I can only hope that you talk to the good senator as well in your political -
Mr Harriss - What is he - wet or dry?
Mr AIRD - Actually I reckon a bit of both, don't you?
Anyhow, I have written to Senator Eric Abetz seeking his support. Broadband Connect funding is intended to support a small number of large-scale infrastructure projects to encourage private sector rollouts of broadband infrastructure nationally.
The Tasmanian Government believes that a Connect Tasmania project is a very good fit with the Broadband Connect funding objectives and in joining with industry players to leverage these telecommunications assets for Broadband Connect funding is hopeful of success.
The second part of the question obviously does not apply given the response that I have given. I will just elaborate a little, Mr President. The Connect Tasmania process is, in terms of trying to commercialise our own optic fibre, one of the more significant infrastructure projects that we have under way. How we build the economy, our education system and deliver health services is going to be dependent upon having a very fast broadband service. By commercialising our own optic fibre we will place commercial pressure on Telstra which currently has a monopoly in delivering services. We will be in a very good position at the end of the process to be able to deliver a good service.
I think that having the optic-fibre commercialisation process puts us in very good stead for the future. I met Senator Coonan at a ministerial council meeting not so long ago and indeed she was interested to see the various facets of the development of optic fibre and broadband services generally. I am optimistic that she does see Tasmania in a favourable light and therefore once we commercialise our optic fibre then we will be in a better position to put specific proposals, in association with the private sector, to see how we can leverage money from the Commonwealth. I thank the honourable member for his question.