Liberals misfire in FTTN funding attack

Opposition Communications spokesperson, Bruce Billson, has misfired in an attack on the Federal government over the use of the AU$2.4 billion Communications Fund to back the national fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network.

Opposition communications spokesperson, Bruce Billson, has misfired in an attack on the Federal government over the use of the AU$2.4 billion Communications Fund to back the national fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network.

Billson said last night that the Federal Labor government had "quietly retreated from its reckless and shameless plan to raid the AU$2 billion Communications Fund" after it discharged the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Communications Fund) Bill 2008 from the Senate notice paper yesterday.

"It is unclear what Labor plans to now do in relation to the Communications Fund, but I am hopeful it has finally accepted its raid was unnecessary," said Billson in a statement, the latest in a series of attacks on the government for its proposed use of the funds.

It was revealed today, however, that the AU$2.4 billion fund is on its way to being adapted and absorbed into the new Building Australia Fund &mdash pending further legislative amendments &mdash as part of the government's 2008 Federal Budget.

A spokesperson for Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy today described the removal of the Senate notice for the amendment as "a formality only" in light of the adaptation of the fund.

Minister for Infrastructure, Senator Anthony Albanese — speaking in Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's absence — noted in a parliamentary committee hearing today that Billson's claims "could not be further from the truth" in relation to the proposed use of the fund.

Senator Conroy is currently attending the OECD ministerial meeting on the Future of The Internet Economy in South Korea, a commitment which also caught the attention of Opposition MP Billson.

"It would appear he is desperately scratching around the world looking for a way to turn Labor's election broadband sound bites into something resembling sound public policy," said Billson.

The Victorian Liberal MP responded to the gaffe today, saying: "What this development highlights is more policy on the run".

"Just before the Budget, Labor decided that money for broadband should be rolled into the Building Australia Fund. Why? Because the Opposition had highlighted the lack of clarity about how exactly they were going to source the AU$4.7 billion," he said.

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