Labor leader Kevin Rudd has reinforced the importance of a high-speed national broadband network, describing it as the missing cog in the nation's future economic wheel.
"If you have the best trained people in the world matched with the most modern information technology in the world, you can turbo charge overall productivity growth.
"In the 19th century, governments laid out railway networks as the arteries of the economy. In the 21st century, governments around the world are ensuring that high speed broadband networks are laid out -- as the arteries of the new economy," Rudd said in his official response to the federal budget this evening.
"Labor's plan is for a state-of-the-art fibre optic to the node national network with a speed of 12 megabits per second (capable of upscaling) to be laid out over a five-year period. This is the nation building that the nation needs," he said.
In March, Rudd announced that the Labor party will invest AU$4.7 billion in a new national fibre broadband network if it won the coming federal election.
Security -- online and offline -- was a big winner in Tuesday's federal budget but critics have taken the Howard government to task for inadequate investment in the ICT sector.
The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) expressed disappointment in the lack of funding for a high-speed broadband network. James McAdam, AIIA general manager for Strategy and Policy services, said the federal government had made its view clear -- it expects the private sector to fund the broadband rollout.
Meanwhile, in a major boost for education, Rudd used his formal budget reply to announce a AU$2.5 billion Trades in Schools program over 10 years aimed at building new training centres and upgrading facilities at 2,650 secondary schools across the country.
"Each secondary school in Australia will be eligible for capital funding of between $500,000 up to $1.5 million to build trade workshops, computer laboratories and other facilities to expand vocational education and training opportunities.
"Schools can apply to build metal workshops, commercial kitchens, automotive workshops, plumbing workshops, graphic design labs as well as ICT laboratories," Rudd said.