At last a bold initiative from Labor ? its broadband plan.
With a price tag of $4.7 billion it may look extravagant. It?s about $500 a household, spread over several years. To put that figure into perspective, Australian households already spend $1300 a year on computers, internet subscriptions, pay television, software and electronic entertainment, and another $1500 on telephone services. It?s only twice the amount the present government has committed to a nine kilometer road in the politically sensitive Brisbane region ? a project which may have local merit, but will not have the national benefits of a coast-to-coast broadband.
One criticism relates to the proposal to fund part of this outlay from the Future Fund, linking that contribution to the proceeds from the Telstra sale. The argument is that the Future Fund should be quarantined to meet future Commonwealth liabilities. But those who mount such arguments are taking a narrow, bookkeeper?s notion of what constitutes a ?liability?. A responsible government has an obligation to provide economically useful goods where the private sector, because of market failure, falls short. In our internet infrastructure we have fallen far behind other developed countries. That?s a liability.