Prime Minister Julia Gillard this afternoon invited Australians to reflect on the significance of Labor’s National Broadband Network project going ahead, with its potential to deliver equivalent telecommunications pricing for the bush with metropolitan Australia.
The revelation this afternoon that rural independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor will support Labor to form government means the NBN is likely to go ahead, with both citing the flagship project as one of the key reasons they decided to support Labor above the Coalition.
One aspect of the deal between Labor and the duo is that wholesale pricing equivalence will apply between rural areas and the city.
“People should take a moment to have the force and significance of this to settle into their minds,” Gillard told journalists in a press conference this afternoon.
Gillard claimed that people living in regional Australia currently paid more for telecommunications — due to the cost of long distance calling, for example. But she said this would change under the NBN.
“Whether you’re on the broadband in Tamworth or on the broadband in CBD Sydney, the wholesale price on broadband will be the same,” she said, noting it would “equalise” the cost of telecommunications in Australia.
“What it means is that every Australian is going to get access to the same wholesale price and opportunity … this is unparalleled since the days when we were talking about building railroads.”
The Prime Minister did face questions on the matter from the press, however, with one journalist claiming the deal might mean that the pricing equivalence would mean city dwellers would need to subsidise those living in regional areas.
Another aspect of the deal between Labor and the independents is that the NBN will now be rolled out in order from the bush to city areas — rather than the other way around.
Gillard wouldn’t be drawn on the details of how NBN Co’s rollout would change — noting that although Labor would be working with NBN Co on the rollout to make it a priority for regional Australia, there were some “commercial in confidence” aspects to arrangements which she couldn’t talk about.
And the PM mentioned one final matter relating to telecommunications — the matter of how the cabinet would be reshuffled after the Labor victory.
Gillard said she would be working through the cabinet posts with her “leadership team” — including Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan, Immigration Minister Chris Evans and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.