I should have known better, but I was still a bit surprised to find absolutely zilch for broadband in the latest Howard-Costello Budget.
Also, it is of significant interest that the platform upon which Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan could have announced major telecoms-related investment -- her post-Budget press release -- is completely devoid of any new funding to support the supposed priority to broadband enable Australia.
After all, with so many bad things to say about Labor's policies I assumed she had a much better strategy waiting in the wings. Surely, with Howard and Costello throwing around cash like sailors on weekend leave in Kings Cross, she could have grabbed some to fund radical new infrastructure policies?
Coonan clearly believes current policies -- and the paltry sums coming from the government to support critical broadband infrastructure -- are more than adequate for the market's needs. Now, to be fair, I wouldn't call the coming AU$600 million Broadband Connect handouts "paltry", but once they're gone, they're, well, gone.
The government, having milked as much as it could from its holdings in Telstra, has cut the industry loose and is leaving infrastructure development to the whimsy of a fragmented and chronically imbalanced market.
Where is the vision? What long-term investment is the government making to improve communications for all Australians? And I don't mean buying votes with great wads of cash that will more likely be used towards new plasma TVs than the training or childcare it was meant for.
Labor has positioned its multi-billion dollar broadband strategy as a major election initiative, and the Coalition has wasted no time in mocking it. But to keep up with the rest of the world's ICT, this country needs a coherent strategy, a cashed-up and empowered regulator, and a government that will stop blowing chances to even symbolically portray better telecommunications infrastructure as a national priority.