Jun 25, 2013

Question Without Notice – Federal Labor’s NBN and Tony Abbott’s 19th Century Alternative

JOHN MURPHY (Reid MP) – 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 importance of the government’s National Broadband Network?  Minister, why is the Government investing in the technology of the future, not the past?

ANTHONY ALBANESE – I thank the Member for Reid for his question and I note that by the end of this week NBN fibre is scheduled to be switched on in more premises in Homebush and Lidcombe in the Member’s electorate, as well as in South Perth, Victoria Park, Sawtell and Penrith.

The National Broadband Network is being rolled out right around the country.

I am reminded by the Member for Brand [Gary Gray] that it is being rolled out in Mandurah as well.  This is bringing 21st century technology right to people’s homes where it is needed.

The alternative policy by those opposite proposes fridge-like boxes on the corner of every street and then copper to the home.  In the 21st century they want taxpayers to pay Telstra for 19th century technology – not that their plan has actually factored in paying Telstra for the copper network.

Of course the Shadow Minister for Broadband and the Copper Economy [Malcolm Turnbull] is not alone in arguing the merits of copper in this Chamber.  Indeed, Mr Thomas Brown, a member, is recorded as arguing in the old chamber at the old place (old Parliament House): “Copper is used for greater efficiency”.  He was out there arguing the case for copper, just like the Member for Wentworth today.  You can look it up in Hansard it was on 23 November 1910.  This bloke would have been a visionary 103 years ago, but today he is way behind.

Let me tell you there were similar nay-sayers back then.  There was a fellow that the Member for Wentworth could relate to, Mr Mathews.  He said this:

“The practical men in the Department, not the theorists, think that nothing is gained by using copper wire for short lines.  Some of the iron wire lines have been in use for thirty years, and give as good results now as copper wire lines.”

You can just envisage the Member for Wentworth back then with a top hat on rocking up to parliament and saying: ‘We don’t need this copper rubbish.  The iron is fine’.  Just like today he argues, ‘We don’t need the fibre.  The copper is fine,’ and just like the Leader of the Opposition [Tony Abbott] who sees Sonny Bill Williams at a launch and goes, ‘Oh, is that Sonny Bill or is that an apparition?’

You have a situation whereby those opposite are simply unprepared for the future.  We on this side are engaging with the NBN because it is a part of our economic future not the past.