Monday, August 02, 2010

Australia - in the election campaign, ALP has promised to extend the national broadband network to some outlying towns

[smh] Prime Minister Julia Gillard threw billions at broadband and highway networks on Friday, while former Labor leader Kevin Rudd threw her a bouquet - offering to come back swinging for her campaign.

The prime minister spent the day touring the marginal Perth electorate of Hasluck, won by Labor backbencher Sharryn Jackson in 2007 with the help of preferences.

The prime minister's first announcement was a promise to broaden access to the $43 billion National Broadband Network from 90 per cent of premises in the country to 93 per cent.

An extra 300,000 homes will be covered by the extension, so that towns like Cooma, on the edge of the Snowy Mountains, and Weipa, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, will have fibre optic internet access.

The announcement was overshadowed by news later in the day that Mr Rudd, who was ousted by Ms Gillard in June, was in hospital and being prepared for surgery.

Mr Rudd's office issued a statement saying he would undergo an operation to remove his gall bladder but would be back campaigning next week for Ms Gillard's re-election.

"Mr Rudd looks forward to resuming campaign activities next week both in his own electorate, elsewhere in Queensland and the rest of the country as appropriate in support of the re-election of the government and prime minister Gillard," the spokeswoman said.

"We would obviously wish him well and a speedy recovery and the best of treatment and care in hospital," Ms Gillard said.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy stood beside Ms Gillard for the broadband announcement at the headquarters of Visionstream, a Perth-based company involved in building the backbone of the network.

At a morning tea with senior citizens in Hasluck, Ms Gillard chatted about the possibility of boosting assistance for older people to learn about computers.

"This will be a big help, if we can get the broadband," David Sadler told Ms Gillard.

Labor also made a pledge to untangle the roads around Perth airport, but the offer met some scepticism.

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese, making his first appearance on Ms Gillard's campaign trail, faced an accusation Labor had made the same promise in the 2007 campaign.

"That's not true," was his curt reply.

Gillard unveils bigger broadband plan

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