Ministers line up to brand Minchin a 'Luddite'

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Ministers line up to brand Minchin a 'Luddite'

Debate over telecommunications legislation gets ugly.

You know that the debate over telecommunications competition is getting ugly when somebody pulls out the "L" word.

It's been eight years since the international press bestowed Australia's former communications minister Richard Alston with the title of "world's biggest Luddite".

A "Luddite" was historically a nineteenth century artisan so upset at the new ways of the industrial revolution that he would take to destroying mechanised looms. It is now used 'derisively', according to Wikipedia, to describe a person opposed to technological change.

With a report into internet filtering due for release, Communications minister Stephen Conroy today made the timely move to brand his opponents with the slanderous term before it can be levelled at him.

Conroy twice today described his opponent - shadow communications minister Nick Minchin - as a Luddite to denounce the opposition's calls for delays to the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment Bill, which intends to force Telstra to split in two.

Conroy said that Minchin and the Liberal Party "deserve the strongest condemnation" over the party's plan to defer the bill.

Conroy said that "not everyone in the National Party agrees with the Luddite position being adopted by Nick Minchin."

"Nick Minchin is being exposed for being a complete Luddite," he later said.

While Conroy was the only minister pulling out the "L" card, his colleagues also spent yesterday hurling a torrent of abuse in Minchin's direction.

In Question Time, Prime Minister Rudd said that "if the Liberals had their way, Australians would be left using carrier pigeons for the future rather than accessing an internationally competitive broadband network."

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, who has joint custodianship of the NBN project alongside Conroy, was diplomatic, but no less scathing.

"Under the regime that we inherited from the Howard government, Telstra remains almost two-thirds of the entire telecommunications sector, earning the vast bulk of the profits," he said.

"The regulatory regime is comprehensively intrusive, burdensome and excessive, and it gives Telstra the incentive to focus much of its energy on 'gaming' the regulation rather than innovating, improving its services or reducing prices.

"Under the Howard government the biggest growth sector of the Australian economy was telecommunications lawyers, and Telstra were employing a lot of them."

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