Nov 17, 2010

Question without notice – Broadband

Mr ADAMS (3:19 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. Will the minister explain the benefits of the National Broadband Network and what it will deliver to schools and education?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) —I thank the member for Lyons for his question. He understands that the National Broadband Network, which is being first rolled out in Tasmania, his home state, will transform education. Whether you are in Sydney, Tasmania, Mount Isa or Broken Hill, it will make a massive difference. It will change the link between educational opportunity and location. It is the most significant step we could take to change the spatial dimension of educational disadvantage in this country.

Labor’s plan will be an enabler of opportunity right across the country. New teaching applications, whether in our schools, our TAFEs or our universities, will flourish, using 3-D and interactive videoconferencing, specialist training and other measures. Together with our Computers in Schools program, broadband will give students full access to the opportunities of the 21st century. Universal high-speed broadband will also transform tertiary education. A specialty course taught in one university could be available right across the country. Regional centres like Port Macquarie will be able to keep their best and brightest rather than lose them to the city universities.

When I was growing up, my cousins used to come down to Sydney from Coffs Harbour and Grafton because, once they finished school, they needed to come to the city to get educational opportunities. That will change. There are other advantages as well, and I will use one particular example. As part of the economic stimulus package, through the infrastructure employment program, we have funded $13 million to transform the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. That will make a big difference to this iconic institution in the inner city of Sydney. But it will make a difference to the whole nation, because, as part of that project, the National Centre for Creative Learning digital classroom—there in the heartland, right on Sydney Harbour—will provide cutting edge visual arts infrastructure and education in regional and remote Australia, including teacher training and development, programs for children with special needs, online galleries, films and historical research. The Director of the MCA, Liz Ann Macgregor, has said that that would simply not be possible without the National Broadband Network. This is a transformative educational program and, indeed, the National Broadband Network will make it possible.

But, of course, you cannot be part of the solution if you do not even get the problem. The shadow minister has said that the NBN is an answer to a problem that has not even been identified. If they do not know what the problem is with access and the difference that a transformative national broadband network will be able to achieve, then it is no wonder that they have a policy of just wrecking the NBN.