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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . . Page.. 237 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

excess of 60 per cent of people across Canberra have Internet access and something in the vicinity of 40 per cent of people in Canberra have Internet access in their own homes. Clearly it is a matter of great concern that there would be so many in the community who, as a minority, do not enjoy that kind of access.

The ACT presently leads Australia in terms of computer ownership. Two in three households in the ACT own a computer. We lead the country in relation to Internet connections, and 62 per cent of adults regularly access the Internet. We are ahead of any other city in Australia. We are ahead of the USA as a whole. We have one of the highest rates of Internet access in the world. Someone told me the other day that in Canberra we have a higher proportion of our population on the Internet than they do in Seattle, the home of Microsoft in the United States. That is a very potent message about how important it is, with a revolution taking place in the way we consume services and interact with others, that we make sure that we are not leaving large parts of our citizenry behind.

It is more important than ever that we ensure that low income earners can access these services. For example, the ANZ Bank, which issues monthly job advertisement statistics, has noted a trend for job advertisements these days to be placed on the Web rather than in newspapers. If you do not have access to the Web, you have a serious problem in accessing some of those jobs. We need to ensure that unemployed people can access the Internet to submit job applications.

Mr Speaker, we have a strong commitment to develop practical strategies to bridge the digital divide. We are a city that is too smart, too switched on, not to be able to develop those sorts of responses. Members will be aware that I recently asked Mrs Burke, the new member of the government team, to chair a task force on the question of the digital divide, and I understand she is about to finalise the selection of that task force and the reference group that she will use.

The task force will report its findings to the ACT government soon so that we can consider the way in which we will commit the $500,000 announced in the draft budget initiatives for application to this problem. It is a problem of that sort of dimension. In fact, the total package that we have announced amounts to $2.6 million over the coming four years, and I hope that that will be money well spent to ensure that we have a community that is truly capable of saying that all its citizens enjoy the fruits of that new technology. It is another important community dividend as a result, I would submit, of good financial management. I hope that we can make sure we drive that money forward to producing a solid result for the ACT community.

Members of the Legislative Assembly-access to information

MR QUINLAN: Mr question is to the Chief Minister. Sometime late yesterday you issued a press release announcing a revenue return of $10 million to the people of the ACT. I have to say that, consistent with your recent media management strategy, it was embargoed until today so the time for any other elected member of this place to prepare a considered response was very limited.

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