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Friday, 30 July 2010 18:49

Election 2010: NBN love for Hasluck miners


There was a very good reason, in case anyone missed it, why the Prime Minister unveiled the National Broadband Network fibre footprint in the West Australian seat of Hasluck, rather than in a population centre.

For a start, Hasluck, on the Perth suburban fringes, is among the most marginal of Labor-held electorates in the country, with the sitting member Sharryn Jackson holding the seat by a threadbare one per cent.

The seat is home to a disproportionate number of fly-in, fly-out contract workers from mining towns to the State's north and east. Indeed, Labor strategists figured the loss of Hasluck would be a near certainty at the height of the mining tax argy bargy.

Certainly the seat was home to some of the most colourful vox pop exchanges dealing with mining tax debate.

With Julia Gillard having taken most of the heat out of the mining tax debate, the Prime Minister has now returned to the seat bearing gifts - in the form of fat communications pipes for these same mining workers to say goodnight to their kiddies in future via videophone.

Because the NBN Company fibre footprint plan announced by the Prime Minister and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy was full of good news for regional workers. And though it was laden with gifts for mining towns all across Australia, no state's mining centres will benefit like Western Australia

Which is as it should be. If these regional centres - which might have started life for the sole purpose of supporting a mine community - are to have a real chance at building diversified economies of their own, 100Mbps fibre connection to the national broadband network will certainly help.

For the fly-in, fly-out workers of Hasluck, the NBN is a clear voting differentiator between the major parties.

It is one thing that their brand new, out-sized homes with the four-car garages will be directly connected to fat NBN pipes. It is quite another that their workplaces of Derby, Port Hedland, Karratha, Tom Price, Paraburdoo, Exmouth, Denham, Carnarvon, Darby, Broome, Kalboorlie, Norseman and Esperance are all directly connected to the same fibre is quite another.

Then throw in the fibre links running down the wheat belt through Narrogin and southwestern farming districts of Bunbury, Busselton and Margaret River through to Albany, and the West Australians should really be smoking a post-NBN love cigarette.

Held up against a Coalition policy that says its going to halt construction of the National Broadband Network fibre and saying goodnight to your kids through a decent internet connection starts to look pretty good.

Western Australia's miners are on a good deal with this one. The kilometres-of-backbone-fibre-per-capita must be an astonishing number.

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