Aug 22, 2012

Question without notice – National Broadband Network

Ms BRODTMANN (Canberra) (15:01): My question is—

Opposition members interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member for Canberra will resume her seat. The clock will be dealt with when the member for Canberra is again asked to commence her question, and I will only do so when I have silence—and that is silence from everybody.

Ms BRODTMANN:My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport representing the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Will the minister update the House on the government’s plan to deliver fibre-to-the-home services through the National Broadband Network? How does this compare with the investment in other countries?

Mr ALBANESE(Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (15:02): I thank the member for her question. Indeed, this is a government that is getting on with the job of building the infrastructure that we need, including the National Broadband Network. This is an investment to transform our economy and deliver superfast, affordable and reliable broadband to all Australians, no matter where they live.

Those opposite have sought to wreck the NBN reforms all the way, while having no alternative credible policy. After 22 failed broadband plans when they were in government, the latest thought bubble is to model their policy on British Telecom’s fibre to the node. But even the Tory minister for communications in the UK describes this as ‘a temporary stepping stone to fibre to the home’. Peter Cochrane, the former chief technology officer of British Telecom, describes this system as ‘one of the biggest mistakes humanity has made’. The truth is that their broadband policy, if you can call it that, just does not stack up, which is why on 20 August Alan Kohler wrote an article in Business Spectator—and you do not have to read it all to get the gist of it—headlined ‘The Coalition’s NBN policy is madness’. That is what he suggests about their policy, and he suggests that they will dump their policy sometime between now and the election. This upset the member for Wentworth a bit, so he had a long chat, according to Alan Kohler. After the chat, Alan Kohler wrote another article the next day—and you do not have to read all of it to get the gist of it—headed ‘Sorry Malcolm, it’s still crazy’. I table that article for the benefit of members.

It is indeed crazy to lock Australia into a second-rate broadband policy reliant on an ageing copper wire system. At the same time that the member for Wentworth is trying to lock Australia into an inferior broadband network, he is investing in world-class broadband to future-proof France’s digital economy, because he is investing in France Telecom, which is building a fibre-to-the-home broadband network in France to 15 million homes. He wants to spend billions of taxpayers’ dollars here on a second-rate network, but when it comes to his own money he puts it into fibre to the home in France.

We just require a bit of consistency. We know they know about the internet because we see them dealing off the issues that are on the internet time after time and we see their connections to the Tea Party—they were evident in the gallery earlier today. (Time expired)