This is the first in an occasional series which sets out the policies of the major parties in key portfolio areas and on key issues. The aim is to give you, the reader, a chance to play spot the policy difference.

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Tasmanian forests

Coalition

  • On 13 May 2005, Prime Minister Howard stood beside Tasmania’s Labor Premier Paul Lennon to announce Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement, which “secur(es) the future of Tasmania’s forest industries and provid(es) enhanced protection for its unique forests.”
  • The Australian and Tasmanian Governments will together invest over $250 million in programmes to support industry, jobs, communities and the environment.
  • These measures ensured that 1 million hectares of old growth forests were reserved, with 45% of Tasmania’s 1996 forest cover protected forever.
  • The 2005 announcement also included:
    • $150 million in new spending from the Australian Government, focused on providing support for industry to secure its future.
    • $42 million to the hardwood timber industry to retool and adapt to new log mixes, more than was committed in our election package.
    • $4 million to meet the special needs of country sawmills.
    • $10 million to the softwood industry to aid investment in environmentally friendly best practices and improve efficiency.

Labor

  • Kevin Rudd has stated publicly: “I’m here today to make it clear-cut where we stand in terms of the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement. Mr Howard is locked in behind that, I’m locking in behind that, I can’t be any clearer than that.”
  • A Rudd Labor Government will support the principles underpinning the Regional Forest Agreements and work with the Tasmanian Government to implement the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement.
  • Labor’s Tasmanian forestry plan includes $9 million to promote the export of forest products, $8 million to address the impact of climate change on forestry, and $1 million for a new forest industry skills council.
  • Crack down on the importation of illegally logged timber.
  • Invest $8 million in addressing major knowledge gaps about the impacts of climate change on forestry and the vulnerability of forest systems.

Communications, information technology and the arts

Broadband

Coalition

  • Senator Coonan: “The Australian Government will ensure 99% of the population has access to fast affordable broadband by June 2009.”
  • Australia Connected [is] a national broadband network that will extend high speed services out to 99% of the population and provide speeds of 12 megabits per second.
  • The network will be rolled out by OPEL, a joint venture between Optus and rural group Elders, which has been awarded $958 million in funding from the Broadband Connect infrastructure program, and an additional funding allocation. OPEL has agreed to make its own commercial contribution of over $900 million to significantly upscale this new network.
  • This scalable national network will have the capacity to provide increased speeds as Australia’s demand for bandwidth grows.
  • Includes the Australian Broadband Guarantee: “A safety net that ensures Australians living in the most remote or difficult to reach areas (the remaining one per cent) are entitled to a broadband subsidy of $2,750 per household”
  • To be delivered by June 2009.

Labor

National fibre to the node (FTTN) network that will connect 98% of Australians to high speed broadband internet services. The remaining 2% of Australians in regional and rural Australia not covered by the FTTN network will have improved broadband services.

  • National fibre to the node (FTTN) network that will connect 98% of Australians to high speed broadband internet services. The remaining 2% of Australians in regional and rural Australia not covered by the FTTN network will have improved broadband services.
  • To increase speed to a minimum of 12 megabits per second – “so fast that household entertainment, business communication and family services will happen in real time.”
  • Financed from existing government investment in communications, including the $2 billion Communications Fund and selling up to $2.7 billion worth of Telstra shares held in the Future Fund.
  • Labor promises the new network will mean:
    • Slashed telephone bills for small business;
    • Enhanced business services such as teleconferencing, video conferencing and virtual private networks;
    • Enhanced capacity for services like e-education and e-health; and
    • High definition, multi-channel and inter-active TV services.
  • To be delivered by 2012

Education

Schools policy

Coalition

  • Build better literacy and numeracy outcomes for students including delivering $700 tutorial vouchers, National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy, new overarching Literacy, Numeracy and Special Learning Needs Program for the most disadvantaged students funded at $2.1 billion over 2005-2008.
  • Establishing greater national consistency in schooling across Australia including implementing a common school starting age by 2010 and an Australian Certificate of Education for year 12
  • Delivering $1 billion in new funding for school infrastructure, funding which adds to the $1.5 billion already committed by the Australian Government for capital works in schools over the next four years.
  • Establishing 28 Australian Technical Colleges
  • Plain English Report Cards
  • Strong possibility of merit-based pay for teachers.

Labor

  • A 50 per cent education tax refund for parents on laptops and broadband for school students.

At the Labor party’s election launch on November 14, Rudd announced three new ‘Education Revolution’ chapters which will be implemented if the Opposition wins the election:

1) To tackle the national skills crisis over the next four years:

  • 450,000 new trade education places.
  • 65,000 new apprenticeships.
  • Two thirds of the trade places will be for people already in the workplace to update or further their existing skills. The remaining third will be for those “on the margins or outside the workforce”.
  • This program will begin April, 2008.

2) Investment in computers for every student and highspeed broadband internet:

  • Every student in years nine to 12 will have access to their own computer at school.
  • Labor wants to link Australia’s 9000 schools to a highspeed broadband network, which processes information at 1000 MB a second. They are planning to build the network first.
  • Remote schools which cannot access the network will be provided with alternatives.

His third chapter was devoted to higher education and can be found under Crikey’s policy comparison for that area. Labor’s other education plans are:

  • Develop a national curriculum that includes specific literacy and numeracy standards in all years of schooling from Kindergarten to Year 12;
  • Set up a National Curriculum Board to develop a rigorous, quality national curriculum for all Australian students from Kindergarten to Year 12 in the key subjects of Maths, English, History and the Sciences;
  • Strengthen children’s literacy and numeracy development in their preschool years through a universal year of early childhood education and care for all four year olds — $450 million for 15 hours a week of high quality early childhood education.
  • Provide $111 million to encourage young Australians to both study and teach maths and science;
  • Commit $62.5 million to encourage Government, Independent and Catholic schools to share educational facilities like science and language labs;
  • Ensure all children starting school receive a health and early skills assessment so they get off to the best start in life.
  • Performance-based pay? Hard to tell. Stephen Smith says the priority is: “We need to start paying teachers more. We need to start rewarding quality teaching.” Says nothing will be done without consultation with states and territories.

Peter Fray

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