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Conroy's broadband forum to cost $500k

A conference to be held at the University of New South Wales on the future of fast broadband will cost taxpayers $528,000.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

update A taxpayer-funded conference to be held next month on the future of fast broadband will cost $528,000, documents reveal.

Hailed last week by the Federal Government as a "major forum", the Realising Our Broadband Future meet up will bring together Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, US web pioneer and now Google evangelist Vint Cerf, academics and the NBN Co's chief, Mike Quigley, to discuss what new applications will be possible in a high speed broadband world.

Documents available on the Federal Government's tender system revealed that the two-day forum, to be held on 10 and 11 December at the University of New South Wales, will cost over half a million dollars to put on. The contract was awarded to Paddington-based events management firm, Event Planet.

The forum follows a similar one organised earlier this year by the Department of Communications Broadband and the Digital Economy called Ready for Digital TV, which cost around $700,000.

Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin said the latest forum was a cynical attempt to cover the government's alleged cart-leading-the-horse approach to the National Broadband Network (NBN).

"The Rudd Government has recklessly committed to spend up to $43 billion of taxpayers' money on an NBN and now wants to hold a summit to talk about how it might be used. You would think they would have worked this out beforehand," Minchin said in a statement.

"This is nothing but a cynical marketing exercise and all it does is highlight the fact that Labor's handling of broadband policy is like watching a slow-motion train wreck in the making.

"This is straight from the Kevin Rudd handbook; hold another summit to disguise the fact he has failed to actually deliver a new broadband connection despite his election promise to do so."

In emailed comments, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said it was clear from what he said were Minchin's "uninformed comments" that the Shadow Communications Minister had no understanding of the "truly remarkable applications that will be enabled in a superfast broadband environment".

"These applications promise transformational opportunities for education, health, business, government and the community, and will help drive new productivity and growth for Australia's future economy," said Conroy. "This landmark forum will highlight the opportunities and help our research community and commercial sectors plan for the digital applications, services and business models of the future."

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