Australian Minister Hits Back at Murdoch, Packer

27 November 2006

SYDNEY: Rupert Murdoch and James Packer have two things in common. Each swanned into Dad's business; and each has an inbred expectation that their media muscle will have governments dancing to their tune.

Both men recently slammed Australia's Howard administration for alleged under-investment in broadband internet facilities, whingeing that the nation's download speeds were a "disgrace" [WARC News: 17-Nov-06].

Earlier this month Murdoch paterfamilias called on the government along with telecoms operator Telstra to invest up to A$12 billion (US$775.8m; €600.0m; £405,2m) to improve broadband download speeds.

While Packer bleated that the government had not worked hard enough at bringing Australian broadband into line with the rest of the developed world.

Communications minister Helen Coonan, a feisty campaigner who had already issued a robust rebuttal of the moguls' criticisms, on Thursday delivered a follow-up whammy at a Sydney media conference.

She told delegates: "Our concern is to ensure that we have a fair services and equitable services right across this country, so that is where we invest taxpayers money and that's where we do it responsibly."

"I can appreciate that if you have got a real commercial interest in getting people to buy very expensive product and content, you'll be trying to get the government to subsidise it as much as possible."

Coonan also pointed out that 80% of households are able to access broadband speeds of up to eight megabits from nineteen different providers. However, she conceded: "Where the problem lies is in pushing [broadband] out beyond Telstra's footprint to rural and regional Australia."

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff