[it wire] Julia Gillard has used her last set-piece speech of the campaign to warn that Australia will lose jobs to offshore markets if it does not go ahead with the construction of a high-speed national broadband network.
With both Labor and the Coalition marking the final 48 hours of campaigning with distinctly negative campaigns, the Prime Minister said the economy "can't afford to risk" not building a high-speed broadband infrastructure for the future.
In keeping with the Labor theme that its broadband policy is at its heart an economic reform, Ms Gillard told the packed town hall meeting in the western Sydney suburb of Mt Druitt that the NBN would support jobs, improve education and deliver better services.
Ms Gillard said the Coalition plan for broadband – in which it will halt construction of the NBN - was "the same as waking up in the 1970s and saying how about we keep manual typewriters and don’t ever have computers."
"Imagine where our economy might be if we had said that in the 1970s, (had said) manual typewriters are good enough for Australia, while meanwhile Bill Gates and the rest of the world are getting computers."
"Imagine how few jobs we would have in this country if we had gone down that path. Well Mr Abbott is asking you to head down that path. Don't risk that, our economy cant afford to risk that."
Tony Abbott, meanwhile, who has vowed to campaign for the final 36 hours of the campaign continuously up until the polls close tomorrow evening, has used the broadband to highlight "Labor waste" and the need for spending restraint.
Mr Abbott has been less keen to talk about his alternative broadband policy than to highlight the cost of government’s broadband. He has continued in radio interviews and election doorstops to highlight the lower-cost Coalition broadband plan as capable of delivering the same kinds of services as Governments'.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy was in Darwin today on a campaign stop to look at some eHealth services at Darwin Hospital that he says will benefit from the faster pipes of the NBN. He made a commitment that Darwin would be one of the first cities to receive the NBN in a re-elected Gillard Government.
"Existing telehealth and other e-health applications will receive a huge boost from two major initiatives announced by the Gillard Labor Government - the rollout of the NBN and the announcement of a $392 million investment in Medicare rebates for online consultations," Senator Conroy said.
Julia on NBN: Don't risk jobs, economy