Monday, August 09, 2010

Australia - Different parties set out their views on telecoms in the Federal Election Campaign

[sbs] Stephen Conroy, Tony Smith and Scott Ludlam have outlined their parties' policies on information and communication technologies (ICT) during a debate at the National Press Club in Canberra.

Sky News' David Speers moderated the event, which was hosted by the Australian Computer Society.

Labor Communications Minister Stephen Conroy made the opening remarks, saying communications and technology "are profoundly changing our economy".

Senator Conroy says implementing a National Broadband Network (NBN) is necessary to compete in a global economy, and would make Australia internationally-competitive.

Mr Conroy says the NBN will benefit small businesses and create new jobs.

The Senator says an NBN will have important repercussions for remote education, online medical assistance and will allow elderly Australians to stay in their own homes longer.

Mr Conroy says Australia "will pay" for not implementing the NBN in the future.

Coalition Communications spokesman Tony Smith took the podium next, espousing the importance of research and collaboration in the technology sector.

"All of us agree improving Australia's broadband infrastructure is critical," Mr Smith says.

Mr Smith says the major difference between the two main parties is how their broadband plans are costed and carried out.

He says the Coalition's broadband plan would not be solely funded by the public, but would look to the private sector to help ease the funding burden.

The Liberal MP also slammed the Labor Government's Internet filter plan, saying the Coalition did not think it was workable.

Mr Smith says education and engagement was the best way to ensure online safety. He says the Coalition will try to help parents make the right decision when it comes to Internet safety.

Greens' Senator Scott Ludlam was the last of the three to speak in the debate. He welcomed the inclusion of his party in such a debate, hailing as a first in this election campaign.

Mr Ludlam says his party fundamentally agrees with an NBN, but says the scheme should stay in public hands.

"This technology is going to connect us with emerging markets..." Mr Ludlam says.

He says, should the Greens become the balance of power, that they will hold the major parties accountable on issues relating to the web filter and NBN.

Senator Ludlam says there are no incentives for the market to roll out broadband in remote and regional communities.

Mr Smith says the Coalition would implement the basics and allow market competition to complete the rest of the infrastructure.

He says broadband speeds will continue to get faster as market competition increases in broadband services.

Mr Conroy says the web filter will stop paedophiles from accessing pages promoting child pornography, pro-rape, pro-terrorism and bestiality - pages that are already refused classification in Australia.

Senator Conroy accused the Coalition and Greens of not doing anything to stop these pages with their refusal to back the web filter.

Mr Smith and Mr Ludlam both argued against the filter, saying it would slow down Internet speeds and would be fairly easy to circumvent.

MPs tussle over future of communications

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