Jun 21, 2010

Question without notice – Broadband

Ms COLLINS (2:16 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, representing the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Why is universal high-speed broadband vital nation-building infrastructure, and what progress is being made to implement this? Are there any threats to the rollout?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Franklin for her question. I am surprised that the member for Bradfield is not asking questions about broadband and communications, because I know the member for Bradfield actually understands the need for structural separation. But it seems when they go across there and sit on those benches the intellectual integrity gets drained away.

Every Tasmanian knows about the importance of broadband. They know that this government’s plan for a national broadband network is the largest nation-building infrastructure project in our history. The announcement of a financial heads of agreement between Telstra and NBN Co. is indeed historic. The agreement clears a path to move Australia from the copper age to the fibre future. The agreement ensures structural separation—reform promoted by the member for Bradfield in his book and reform that will boost services, competition and innovation in Australia. For the first time we will have a national wholesale only network that is not controlled by any retail company.

In total, this agreement guarantees a faster, cheaper rollout of the National Broadband Network, with higher take-up rates. This is a win for Australian businesses and a win for all Australian households. This is recognised particularly in regional Australia. That is why it has got such strong support from Tasmanians, who understand the threat that those opposite present to the future of the Tasmanian economy. But it is not just in Tasmania; it is not just in the south.

Up the in the Far North, the Far North Queensland chairman of the Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry said:

I think this will be good for the regionalisation of Australia, particularly e-commerce … We need people to come to regional Australia, with good broadband it will create opportunities.

Indeed it will. But those opposite are determined to oppose this forward thinking. The opposition spokesperson, Tony Smith, has said:

This hugely expensive and risky venture is something that no responsible government would contemplate in the first place …

He is half right, because no coalition government would have the vision to contemplate such a proposition. The shadow finance minister has gone out there and opposed it as well. Indeed, their alternative is that they are going to create a $1 billion fund to:

… invest in 21st century education and communication tools to improve learning opportunities in the regions …

It is like trading in your iPhone for a walkie-talkie.

The opposition are stuck in the past. The problem is not just that they are stuck in the past but that they want the rest of Australia to stay back and keep them company. That is the problem with this Leader of the Opposition. No matter what area of policy you look at they are stuck in the past, too afraid to make the leap into this century that is so necessary for our economic future.