Nov 22, 2010

Question without notice – Broadband

Ms OWENS (2:32 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, representing the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Why is universal broadband vital reform for Australia? What indications are there of confidence from business and parliamentarians that the National Broadband Network will deliver significant benefits to the Australian economy?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) —I thank the member for Parramatta for her question. Indeed, there are many signs of confidence out there in the National Broadband Network. This is no surprise because the studies show that innovation from ICT is the biggest, single driver of business productivity. The Centre for International Economics has found that high-speed broadband could lift national economic output by 1.4 per cent. NBN does have the confidence of key players in business as well as in parliament. Peter Strong, the Chief Executive of the Council of Small Business Organisations, said: ‘We want it, we need it.’ The CEO of Primus Telecom, Ravi Bhatia, said of the NBN: ‘Consumers want it, businesses want it, and the industry wants it.’

I am also asked about parliamentarians and their response and whether they have shown confidence in the NBN. On day one, Senator Barnaby Joyce said: ‘This delivers a strategic infrastructure outcome.’ He was straight out of the blocks in support of the government’s plan for the National Broadband Network. The member for Bradfield in a previous life said: ‘I believe the possibilities are extremely exciting.’ But of course there is an even greater sign of confidence in the National Broadband Network, and that is the member for Wentworth’s 5.4 million reasons—5.4 million shares in a company, Melbourne IT, which stands to benefit from the National Broadband Network. There is a great Australian saying: ‘Put your money where your mouth is.’ Well, the member for Wentworth’s money is heading towards the NBN but his mouth is heading in the opposite—

Mr Perrett interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The member for Moreton is now warned.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Leader of the House is asking to lead us to a position where we would believe something about the member for Wentworth which I believe offends standing order 90 and impugns members and suggests improper motives. I suggest it is a very clear breach of standing order 90 to suggest improper motives on the part of members of the House. He is suggesting something that is quite clear to us all, and I would ask you to—

The SPEAKER —I will listen carefully to the way in which the minister couches his response. The minister has the call.

Mr ALBANESE —The Managing Director and CEO of Melbourne IT, Mr Theo Hnarakis, has said in the 2009 annual report—

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Standing order 90 states:

All imputations of improper motives to a Member and all personal reflections on other Members shall be considered highly disorderly.

I put it to you that suggesting improper motives on behalf of the member for Wentworth is highly disorderly. He is continuing to do so, and I ask you to rule it out of order.

Mr Danby interjecting—

Mrs Mirabella interjecting—

The SPEAKER —If the member for Indi and the member for Melbourne Ports would like to discuss this matter, I can arrange for them to have a cup of tea outside for an hour.

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The inability of the House to concentrate on something that is going to raise the temperature of the emotions within the House concerns me. I have indicated to the Manager of Opposition Business that I will listen carefully, on the basis of his point of order, to the response of the Leader of the House. I think that, if he really has carefully listened so far and he is worried about impugning, there could be other interpretations. When I advised the minister that I would listen carefully, he started to say that he was going to quote from the manager or director of a certain company. I will listen carefully to the quote.

Mr Abbott —Mr Speaker, further to the earlier point of order: it is pretty clear that the Leader of the House, at the behest of the Prime Minister, is making a personal attack on the member for Wentworth. He obviously has not taken into account your injunction. That is our point. You admonish the Leader of the House to be directly relevant to the—

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I think I have taken enough submissions on this. In a previous question, maybe tongue-in-cheek, the actions of the member for Wentworth in a similar vein were said to have been in support of a position, hardly impugning. I know that this might be difficult but this is a robust chamber. I desire that there is less debate in responses. That is something that, hopefully, in the review of the new procedures, the Procedure Committee might take up. The minister has the call.

Mr ALBANESE —Thank you, Mr Speaker. The CEO of Melbourne IT says this in their annual report with the headline ‘A bright future’:

… with government investments in next generation high speed networks occurring around the world—including Australia with the NB—I believe we are about to witness another wave of online growth in the coming years which will create new services, new business models, enhance productivity, and deliver new wealth.

That is a stunning endorsement from the CEO of Melbourne IT, one which I concur with completely, and clearly so does the member for Wentworth. I am reminded of the scene from All the President’s Men where Deep Throat is talking to Robert Redford playing Bob Woodward. They are talking about what happens if there is not quite a ring of truth. Deep Throat gives some good advice, and we take this good advice when people are assessing how fair dinkum people are about the NBN. He says this: ‘Follow the money, always follow the money.’

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The minister will resume his seat. The Manager of Opposition Business—sit down. The two members that are standing may as well sit down too. The House will come to order. Those in leadership positions about parliamentary procedures on both sides will set an example and they can take that admonishment as a warning. When a member comes to get the call at the dispatch box, and I am trying to get the House to come to order, I do not expect him to then prattle on across the table. I call the Manager of Opposition Business on a point of order.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, am I just to take it that I have been warned for my conduct at the dispatch box and yet the Leader of the House—

The SPEAKER —The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. He has been warned for his behaviour for the last 40 minutes. The Manager of Opposition Business has the call for a point of order.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I regard the last three words of the answer of the Leader of the House, which was clearly designed to impugn the member for Wentworth, as highly disorderly—we all knew what was coming; we all know the movie—and I ask you to demand that he withdraw it.

The SPEAKER —I may be the only person in the place that (a) did not hear it and (b) does not know what is coming. The amount of interjections makes it very hard.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The next person that interjects will be out for an hour if they have not been warned. If they have, they will be named. I have the dilemma that I did not hear, but I will ask that the minister withdraw. He can then continue if there is some time, but I am not sure what has happened now.

Mr ALBANESE —To assist the House, if there is any offence taken by the member for Wentworth, I withdraw.

The SPEAKER —I thank the Leader of the House.

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! Members may take the opportunities that they have at other points in the proceedings if they feel aggrieved.