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In a surprise decision, Kevin Rudd, the prime minister, scrapped a tender for private bids and instead announced a new state-controlled company would build the network from scratch, creating "the single largest nation-building infrastructure project in Australian history". Mr Rudd, said years of failed policy had left Australia as a "broadband backwater".
"Just as railway tracks laid out the future of the 19th century and electricity grids the future of the 20th century, so broadband represents the core infrastructure of the 21st century," he said. "Slow broadband is holding our national economy back."
He said the project to replace Australia's expensive, technologically antiquated broadband services with a national network would generate at least 25,000 jobs each year during its construction phase. Mr Rudd said the government would sell its stake in the company within five years of the completion, if conditions allowed.