Monday, 27 May 2019 04:33

Fletcher must take politics out of comms portfolio: Budde Featured

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Fletcher must take politics out of comms portfolio: Budde Pixabay

Newly appointed Communications Minister Paul Fletcher must ensure that he takes the politics out of the portfolio and ensure that telecommunications becomes bipartisan, based on the national interest, well-known telecommunications consultant Paul Budde has told iTWire.

Asked for his reaction to Fletcher's appointment, Budde said he was perhaps the best qualified in government to take on the telecommunications portfolio.

Fletcher was named Minister for Communications, the Arts and Cyber Safety when Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced his cabinet on Sunday.

"I know him from his Optus days and greatly respected his views on the market," Budde said. Fletcher has already said that the completion of the rollout of the national broadband network would be one of his main priorities.

When construction of the NBN was begun in 2009, the Labor Party was in power and it envisaged fibre being rolled out to the premises for 93% of the populace, with the remaining 7% to be supplied with connectivity through either wireless or satellite.

The rollout became a political issue when the Coalition Government, that took power in 2013, decided to change the technology of the network to what it called a multi-technology mix.

The MTM includes fibre-to-the-node, HFC cable, satellite, and wireless, apart from fibre-to-the-premises which is being provided only to new dwellings.

As the MTM plan and the connections provided have come under increasing criticism, fibre-to-the-distribution-point, which considerably reduces the copper lead-in to premises — what the network builder NBN Co calls fibre-to-the-curb — has been introduced as well.

The rollout of the NBN is scheduled to be completed in 2020 but residents and businesses will have 18 months and three years respectively to connect after they are notified that they are in a position to do so.

"He has some healing to do but if he does this in a balanced way he can unite the industry behind him," Budde added.

The telecommunications industry lobby group, Communications Alliance, also welcomed Fletcher's appointment.

CA chief executive John Stanton said Fletcher’s commercial experience in the communications sector and deep knowledge of the industry would be key attributes as the government engaged on a wide-ranging array of necessary reforms.

“During his period as Parliamentary Secretary for Communications, from 2013-15, Paul worked closely and constructively with industry and other stakeholders on a package of ‘red-tape reduction’ initiatives," Stanton said.

“I think Paul recognises, better than most, that a balance needs to be struck between the imposition and costs imposed on industry and consumers by additional layers of regulation, compared with the benefits that can be generated. We look forward to working with the new minister.”

Stanton paid tribute to the contribution made by outgoing communications minister Mitch Fifield to the sector during his time in office.

“Mitch maintained a strong focus on the interests of telecommunications consumers and on improving coordination and execution in the broadband supply chain,” he said.

Mobile industry lobby group, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, said it welcomed Fletcher's appointment and "looks forward to working together in a productive relationship that supports Australia’s ongoing development and leadership in mobile telecommunications".

AMTA chief executive Chris Althaus said in a statement: “The mobile industry is an enabler of economic growth and the rollout of 5G will deliver even more significant economic and social benefits, enhancing productivity, GDP and employment opportunities to name a few, so it is crucial that the government maintains its focus on this opportunity.

“We congratulate Paul Fletcher and very much look forward to working with the Minister who brings a wealth of direct portfolio experience and knowledge to his new role as Communications Minister. This is an important time for industry and government collaboration, as we need to ensure a clear path for network deployment and allocation of spectrum is developed to enable an effective 5G future that will benefit Australian business and society while keeping Australia at the forefront of next generation mobile telecommunications.

“AMTA also thanks and acknowledges outgoing Minister Fifield for his contribution to the Communications portfolio and congratulates him on his appointment as Australia’s next ambassador to the UN.”

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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