[it wire] Australia risked losing jobs to offshore markets if it failed to invest in the National Broadband Network as a critical piece of economic infrastructure, Julia Gillard has told Parliament.
The Prime Minister said the nation had emerged from the global financial crisis with opportunities for new growth and the NBN would play a "pivotal role" as the underlying infrastructure to exploit those opportunities.
In addition to returning the budget to surplus, which Ms Gillard remains committed to doing by 2012/13, she said Government was working to “expand the supply side of the economy.”
Picking up on the reform narrative she has been pressing in the run up to this parliamentary sitting period, Ms Gillard said Government was working on "human capital" initiatives, on tax reform through the promised cut in company tax rates, and on growing the national savings pool through the planned superannuation reforms.
There reforms were vital, she said, "as is having the infrastructure we need for the future and the National Broadband Network is pivotal to that so that we do not end up as a nation exporting jobs to other economies that have (such) infrastructure."
"The National Broadband Network is pivotal to the future."
The Prime Minister's comments underline a theme she has pressed hard since the election, painting the National Broadband Network and the telecommunications regulatory reforms that will usher it into the market as signature pieces of economic reform – rather than simply infrastructure investment.
In Brisbane last week Ms Gillard said the changes to the telecommunications regime that will structurally separate Telstra "represents real unfinished business in our economic reform agenda."
"Successive Governments left Australia with a privatised vertically integrated monopoly; inadequate competition; consumers paying higher prices," Ms Gillard said.
"The Government's legislation and National Broadband Network will achieve the structural separation of retail and wholesale arms in the telecommunications sector - driving competition and a better deal for consumers," she said.
NBN helps stop 'export of jobs': Gillard