Ruckus erupts over federal broadband strategy

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Victoria's minister for IT and communication technology has hit back at comments that the state failed to endorse a National Broadband Strategy agreement.

Victoria's minister for IT and communication technology has hit back at comments that the state failed to endorse a National Broadband Strategy agreement.
 
Marsha Thomson, minister for information and communication technology in Victoria, has said she is dissatisfied with the way the Howard Government has approached the National Broadband Strategy.
 
The comments from the Victorian minister follow a statement issued this morning by federal communications, IT and the Arts minister Daryl Williams. In the statement Williams announced the launch of the National Broadband Strategy, which he described as 'a clear vision for broadband in Australia'.
 
Williams' statement says that it's an agreement by Australian, state and territory governments, 'bar Victoria'.
 
Thomson has hit back at these comments, branding them as 'misleading' about Victoria's commitment to a national broadband strategy.
 
'Victoria [is] a constructive participant in the National Broadband Strategy process and the National Broadband Strategy Implementation Group, but this process has been slow and we are yet to see any real progress on the Action Plan,' Thomson argued.
 
Thomson said that Victoria would continue to reserve its right to endorse the National Broadband Strategy until an agreed Action plan was developed. 'Australia requires a more comprehensive and aggressive National Broadband Strategy which will only be achieved through the completion of an appropriate Action Plan,' she claimed.
 
Thomson is calling for the differing broadband market conditions and policy settings across Australia to first be assessed. 'The Howard Government still needs to define its responsibilities through the Action Plan and clearly state how it intends to meet its broader ongoing responsibility in ensuring that all Australians have adequate broadband telecommunications services.'
 
According to the statement released by Williams' office, the strategy identifies priority issues, such as building user understanding, skills, planning, and urban development. It also claims to outline 'objectives and principles that will drive Australia towards this vision'. 'However, it is disappointing that, despite being consulted on its preparation, the Victorian Government has failed to endorse the National Broadband Strategy,' Williams' statement said.
 
Two government shadow ministers have also issued a joint statement on the issue. Shadow minister for communications, Lindsay Tanner, and shadow minister for IT Kate Lundy described it as 'Williams' great broadband fudge'.
 
The shadow ministers described the National Broadband Strategy released today as 'a series of glib platitudes'. Tanner and Lundy quote OECD figures, which rank Australia as 20 out of 30 OECD countries in terms of broadband penetration. 'Australia needs more than glib platitudes from the Government to improve our internationally embarrassing broadband take up rate,' the shadow ministers argued.

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