The Liberals have accused the Labor government of "breaking another election promise" after Senator Kim Carr was unable to confirm that high-speed broadband access will be made available to schools in time to accompany government's planned one-PC-per-desk rollout for high school students.
Former Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan made the claim after Carr was called to respond to an accusation made by Liberal Senator Alan Eggleston that Labor had scrapped the planned provision of high-speed broadband access to schools during Senate question time yesterday.
Former Communications Minister, Senator Helen Coonan
"Now that the Rudd government has confirmed that it will break its promise to begin building a national broadband network within six months of taking office, has it dawned on the Minister that Labor's parallel promise to begin connecting computers in schools to the new network this financial year will be technically impossible?" Eggleston asked Carr in the Upper House yesterday.
"When the present government was in opposition, we outlined a program to provide greater access for all students in Australian schools to computers and a curriculum that supports computer programs... I am absolutely convinced that the program will be implemented fully and effectively in line with our election commitments," said Carr.
Coonan described Carr's response yesterday as an "admission" that the government would be unable to provide broadband access to schools within its original timeframe.
"Julia Gillard stridently declared after her first cabinet meeting last December that the education revolution rollout was to begin by the end of June. But following upon Kim Carr's response there's no chance that it will be ready to begin anywhere near that time," she said in a statement.
The former Liberal frontbencher referred to a statement made by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard late last year in which she mentioned the possibility that some of the first AU$100 million in funding from the program may go to improving Internet access.
"Labor has admitted it has no prospect of connecting students' computers to its new fast broadband network," she said.
The Opposition's claims come after the Federal government approved the first AU$100 million in funding earlier this month, with Gillard announcing that the government had invited "priority" schools to apply for the funding immediately after Coucil of Australian Governments completed an audit of IT standards in high schools across Australia in February.