May 28, 2013

Question Without Notice – National Broadband Network

Ms ROWLAND (Greenway) (14:59):  My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government representing the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Will the minister update the House on the rollout of the National Broadband Network in my community in Blacktown and across Australia? How does the NBN offer a clear choice for Australians who want to build a stronger, smarter and fairer nation?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government) (14:59):  I thank the member for Greenway for her question and note that it was just a few weeks ago that the NBN was switched on in Blacktown.

The member, who is a proud advocate of the Blacktown community and the NBN, was present. I note also the recent article from the Blacktown Advocate called, ‘Blacktown an NBN town divided.’

That article spoke about how if the opposition policy gets up there will be some people in Blacktown with high-speed broadband and some people without high-speed broadband, some people with fibre technology and some people with copper technology to their house.

The Shadow Minister for Fraudband and the copper economy had this to say in the local paper about this. He acknowledged that the technology under their plan would need to be upgraded down the track.

So it is now acknowledged that you would put in a second-rate system knowing that you are passing on to future generations the need to upgrade the system.

Mr Abbott:  How awful.

Mr ALBANESE:  He just doesn’t get it. How awful, says the Leader of the Opposition. Why not try and get it right the first time and use 21st century technology rather than 19th century technology that was put in by the Postmaster-General? That is where they are stuck.

The problem is that those opposite will create a digital divide in communities right around the country. They think it is all about downloading but it is also about uploading.

This is as short-sighted as the famous quote of the late 1970s by Ken Olsen, who said, ‘There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.’ We know today how fast technology has moved on. We know how vital the infrastructure of the 21st century is. We need to compete in the Asian century—

Mr Turnbull:  Madam Speaker, my point of order is on relevance. The member for Greenway asked the minister to update the House on the rollout of the NBN and I am very anxious that with only 44 seconds left he has not had time to tell us that it is only—

The SPEAKER:  The member for Wentworth will resume his seat. That is an abuse of points of order. The minister has the call.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER:  Order!

Mr ALBANESE:  The shadow minister for the copper economy is on the ball. It might be that he gets into the 20th century before he gets to the 21st.

The truth is that he was so embarrassed by his Leader of the Opposition when they launched the policy. Remember that? There is the Leader of the Opposition, Sonny Bill Williams. Is it an apparition, is it computer-generated? No idea.

The rollout is happening and it is happening in Blacktown, it is happening in Marrickville today, it is happening in Vaucluse, Malcolm. They know the benefit of the NBN. It is happening right around Australia and it is important that we do not create a digital divide. (Time expired)

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER:  Order! I would have thought, given the number of people who I have asked to leave the chamber, that that would have sent some kind of signal. Obviously not. The member for Greenway has the call.

SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTION

Ms ROWLAND: Minister, you have spoken about rolling out the NBN across Australia. Why is it important that we remove the digital divide that exists between regional and urban Australia?

Mr ALBANESE:  I thank the member for her question. One of the great benefits of the NBN is overcoming the tyranny of distance that has made it more difficult to do business in regional Australia than in the CBDs of our capital cities.

That is why new areas switched on to the NBN so far this year include Gungahlin, Toowoomba, Coffs Harbour, Bacchus Marsh and Gosford. Right around the country in regional communities the NBN is overcoming that tyranny of distance. That is why it is important that it be rolled out throughout regional communities so as to overcome the digital divide.

But there is something even worse from the opposition which comes to pricing policy. We have ensured uniform national wholesale pricing so that, whether you live in Coffs Harbour or you live in Camperdown, you get it for the same price. But under the opposition policy that would go.

The National Party leader, Barnaby Joyce, told the Senate less than two years ago that “The National Party believes in uniform pricing absolutely.” Well, they have been pretty quiet in recent times. And Fiona Nash said:

“… they are either deluding themselves, and at the same time the Australian public, if they think a FTTN will deliver high-speed broadband to rural and regional areas, or they are being deliberately deceitful and are trying to trick the public into supporting a plan they know is flawed.”

Indeed it is a flawed plan. It is fraudband and we need to make sure that the whole of Australia benefits from the NBN. (Time expired)