At Federation, adequate communication services were widely regarded as the right of all Australians regardless of their geographical location, and government control was seen as the only way to ensure equity. With this in mind, section 51(v) of the Australian Constitution of 1901 gave power over all postal, telegraphic, telephonic and 'other like services' to the Commonwealth Government.
While telecommunications issues continue to be a Commonwealth Government responsibility, successive governments in Tasmania have sought to provide improved access to telecommunications infrastructure and services, as well as increase the number and quality of educational opportunities in the industry to ensure its sustainability.
These developments provide opportunities, better delivery of government services and improved access for regional Tasmania.
BassLink and the Tasmanian Natural Gas Project have created two opportunities for investment in telecommunications facilities in Tasmania.
BASSLINK AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS
In February 2000, the Tasmanian Government selected Basslink Pty Ltd to build, own and operate an undersea electricity cable across Bass Strait, and encouraged the company to take advantage of the opportunity to lay optic-fibre cable alongside it. The cable is expected to be operational in 2005, connecting Tasmanians to the Australian mainland for the first time with non-Telstra optic-fibre.
THE NATURAL GAS PROJECT AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS
The Tasmanian Natural Gas Project provided another opportunity. The Tasmanian Government entered into an agreement with Tas21 to construct a 420 km optic-fibre backbone connecting north, north west and southern Tasmania, in conjunction with the Duke Energy high-pressure transmission gas trench. This agreement allowed the Tasmanian Government to acquire the asset for $23.1 million upon its completion. The government has also announced it will spend a further $6 million to extend the backbone into points of presence in Tasmania's major population centres.
The Tasmanian Government has also reached agreement with gas distributor PowerCo to access its pipeline trenches for the installation of conduit for optic-fibre. The first phase of this distribution is expected to be completed by end of 2004 and will include pipelines into Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, Burnie and Bell Bay to connect gas to up to 23 large industrial and commercial customers.
There has also been a push by the Tasmanian government to set up a contact centre industry in Tasmania. Tasmania’s low set-up costs and availability of suitable labour have resulted in major international and Australian contact centres being set up around the state in recent years. At May 2004, these include:
- Burnie - Skilled Communications, Australian Taxation Office
- Devonport - Sitel Australia
- Hobart - Vodafone, Qantas, Telstra, Centrelink, Commonwealth Bank, Southern Cross Telco
Information about Tasmanian telecommunication developments can be found on the Government Online web site. Under 'Telecommunications' is the 2003 New and Established Tasmanian Government Strategy, an overview of developments in state-wide telecommunications services in Tasmania since 1991.
- Launceston - Westpac, Telstra, Centrelink.