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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 24 August 1995) . . Page.. 1443 ..

It is not within our power as a country or our interest as a region to seek to shield our businesses and our region from world competition with tariffs and subsidies. To prosper, our businesses need to compete and win globally, and our region must provide an investment environment which has the competitive edge to attract business and help it grow.

Mr Speaker, the ACT and New South Wales governments have established the South East Regional Development Council to help drive and facilitate regional development, and for that I must give a lot of kudos to former Chief Minister Kaine, who, as we know, with Premier Greiner back in 1991, and perhaps even earlier, was responsible for the setting up of the initial involvement. The council’s role includes advising the ACT and New South Wales governments on significant economic issues affecting the region, including actions that will make it easier to do business within the region and to market the region's economic development potential and investment opportunities.

Mr Speaker, the SERD Council has been approved as a regional development organisation under the Commonwealth's regional development program and now qualifies to bid for Commonwealth funding for major projects, including infrastructure projects. The council released its strategic plan on 1 June for public consultation and received wide support. It has since established seven working groups to consider significant regional issues, including the management of natural resources, transport infrastructure, technology and communications, export education and expertise, and tourism. These are issues of interest to the whole region, and this interest is reflected in the membership of the working groups. Members are drawn from business, all tiers of government, the trade union movement, academia and the wider community.

I am also pleased to say that the council has already put two business proposals to the Commonwealth for funding consideration. The first proposal, which has been approved for funding, is the Telecottage project at Bega. This project provides a local node where local residents can access a range of services, such as education, and obtain access to the Internet for the cost of a local call. The second proposal which is being discussed with the Commonwealth for funding support is the Gungahlin broadband pilot project. This project involves a close to $30m investment by Telstra and will make broadband telecommunications services available to 5,000 homes in Gungahlin. The ACT Government will also be investing a significant amount in the project. This exciting project will act as a platform for testing the delivery of broadband services to domestic users and has the potential to offer wider regional community access in the future. I do not want to be accused of stealing all the thunder, because that is something that the previous Labor Government was also in very strong support of.

The intention of these proposals, Mr Speaker, is to establish an advanced electronic network in the region which will enhance communication both within the region and externally. Major elements driving such a network could be tourism services and education services, both of which are likely to generate strong market demand, and the network itself will be a key export facilitator for regional goods and services. These projects are just two of what I expect will be many proposals which will result in economic growth and development not just for the ACT but for the region as a whole.

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