Opposition Communications spokesperson Bruce Billson has said the Coalition will attempt to block the Federal government's proposed use of the AU$2 billion Communications Fund to build its national FTTN network in the Senate.
In reponse to the threat, Federal Minister for Broadband and Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, criticised the Howard government's record on telecoms infrastructure communications investment.
"Under the previous government's strategy, only AU$400 million would be available every three years to improve telecommunication services in the bush," he said, citing the Rudd government's own AU$4 billion pledge to build a national broadband network, which he said "meets the needs of rural Australia".
Victorian MP Billson yesterday said the Opposition would oppose "Labor's planned smash-and-grab raid on the AU$2 billion Communications Fund" in the Senate.
"Communications Minister Stephen Conroy wants to raid the fund, lock, stock and barrel, yet cannot even say what the money will be spent on," Billson said in a statement.
"Despite this, he remains hell-bent on spending AU$4.7 billion of taxpayer's money, just so he can tick a political box, regardless of the consequences for the telcos sector and consumers," he continued.
A spokesperson for Senator Conroy told ZDNet.com.au today that Billson "can't work out if he is blocking or supporting the national broadband network".
With the Senate in the hands of the Opposition until 1 July, the Federal Labor government would need to get the Greens, Family First or South Australian Independent Nick Xenophon on its side if it hoped to pass the Bill freeing up AU$2 billion from the Communications Fund to bankroll part of the national network, with potential bids for the contract due by 25 July.