Jun 19, 2012

APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 1) 2012-2013: Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Portfolio – Consideration in Detail: National Broadband Network

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (16:47):  I am pleased to respond, firstly, to the member for Petrie. I acknowledge that the member for Petrie is a big supporter of the NBN. I acknowledge also that fibre construction will start by 30 June 2015 for thousands of homes and businesses in the following suburbs: Aspley, Bridgeman Downs, Carseldine, Fitzgibbon, Dakabin, Griffin, Mango Hill and Northlakes. Construction work began in Aspley in November last year—we are already there—and the remaining suburbs listed should see the 12-month construction process starting within the next year. You can see on the ground in the electorate of Petrie the government’s commitment to the National Broadband Network that will indeed overcome the tyranny of distance.

With regard to the timing of rollouts, I had the honour to be with the Prime Minister and Minister Conroy at NICTA in Eveleigh—the old Eveleigh railway workshops in Sydney—when the NBN announced their rollout plan of three years for the National Broadband Network. When they did that there could be certainty that suburbs in my electorate, such as St Peters, would benefit from the National Broadband Network. I know that electorates right around the country are going to benefit, with suburbs, homes and businesses benefitting from what the National Broadband Network will provide.

I can also say as the transport minister that the NBN will make a big difference. NBN should be seen as a transport replacement vehicle because it will enable people to work from home. It will take pressure off urban congestion in our cities by allowing someone to operate a business just as effectively in Port Macquarie or Gympie or Dubbo as they would in the CBD of Sydney.

That makes a big difference in the way that our economy functions and it will make a big difference particularly to those people who live in communities where they do not have access to the best technology at the moment.

The shadow minister asked about the corporate plan. He knows full well that the negotiations with Telstra took additional time to what was anticipated at the beginning of the process. That was in order to achieve an outcome—the structural separation of Telstra, which I remind the shadow minister that he said was vital, and I believe he knows it was—and dealing with these issues was absolutely in the national interest but could not be accomplished by the former government. The former government took what was a public sector company, turned it into a private monopoly and called it reform. That was the previous government’s delivery on these issues. We are building a network, with competition on top of the network, to deliver world-class services for people regardless of where they live in a way that is affordable, in way that will transform the Australian economy.

The shadow minister knows full well what the answer to his second question is. It took time for the ACCC to work through these issues, but that was so that it be got right. That certainly did occur. (Extension of time granted) Indeed, throughout the process there was considerable cynicism about whether it would be able to be achieved or not. At the moment the NBN’s new corporate plan is being considered by the government and it will be released in a transparent way.

People can log on—people in Tasmania and other places where it is being rolled out already log on using the NBN—and get information now on the rollout of the NBN. One thing that we do know—I do not think the shadow minister is on board with this—is that if the opposition are elected they say that they will wreck the NBN. They will wreck this proposal that has such enormous support. The opposition want to rely on copper—

Mr Turnbull:  Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The minister is just waffling. It is completely irrelevant. He has been asked a very specific question about some specific numbers and he is refusing, because he is not prepared to own up to what a colossal failure this project is.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott):  The member for Wentworth has made his point of order. The standing orders do not allow me to intervene on an answer. The standing orders in this chamber are probably not working as well as perhaps was originally envisaged, but the standing orders do not allow me to judge whether a question is being answered or otherwise. I now call the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.

Mr ALBANESE:  How do you filibuster in your own time?

Mr Turnbull:  Mr Deputy Speaker, I do apologise for raising the matter with you. I was attempting to appeal to the minister’s sense of shame. I really thought the minister would be ashamed of his disgraceful evasion of the question. I do apologise for raising the matter.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER:  The member for Wentworth has made his point. The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport has the call.

Mr ALBANESE:  I am not surprised that the shadow minister is embarrassed, because we know he does not support his own party’s policy. We know his heart is not in the brief he has been given of wrecking the National Broadband Network and going back to the old copper network of the past. Having had 19 failed plans themselves, they want to trash this government’s innovative, visionary plan for the National Broadband Network, and that is why they are so negative. Wherever we go, they are negative about the rollout but at the same time they whinge if it is not rolled out in their electorate or if it is not done quickly enough. They cannot have it both ways. The truth is that this is—

Honourable members interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Order! The minister has the call and he will be relevant to the portfolio.

Mr ALBANESE:  I am speaking about the National Broadband Network. I know they do not like to hear it, but I am speaking about the National Broadband Network and how effective it has been and how much support it has out there in the community, which is why those opposite, while complaining about it, say, ‘You are not giving it to us quickly enough’. I am pointing out that contradiction, which has been added to today by the questions that have been put forward by the shadow minister.

The fact is we are being transparent. You have a three-year rollout that will be updated annually. In areas such as the Illawarra, one of the first communities in New South Wales to receive this technology, it is being received extremely well.