Australian parliament passes $35 billion broadband

Australia’s House of Representatives approved key legislation Monday that enables the government to roll out a 36 billion Australian dollar ($35 billion) fiber optic high-speed national broadband network.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, whose center-left Labor Party does not hold a majority in either of the two parliamentary chambers, had to negotiate with lawmakers from the minor Greens party and independents to get the bill approved.

The Senate approved the bill in an amended form last Friday and the House of Representatives, which had approved the original legislation, sat for an additional day on Monday to approve those amendments.

The fiber optic broadband network was a major campaign issue during August elections.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s conservative Liberal Party had promised a smaller, slower AU$6 billion network with a range of technologies including optical fiber, wireless and DSL.

Gillard said the successful vote showed that Australia’s first minority government in 67 years was governing well.

“The best way of demonstrating to the Australian people that we are governing well is by doing it,” she told reporters.

Independent lawmakers said their support for Labor’s broadband plan was a major reason why they backed Labor to form government. With the support of three independents and a Greens party lawmaker, Labor commands a single seat majority in the 150-seat House of Representatives where parties form government.

Abbott had argued that the government was making its largest ever infrastructure investment without analysis that would ensure the network represented value for money.

Associated Press