Jun 23, 2011

Question without notice – Telecommunications

Ms SAFFIN (Page): My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, representing the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Minister, how is the government delivering telecommunications reform in Australia? How have these reforms been received and what is the government’s response?

Mr ALBANESE: I thank the member for Page for her question. She knows how important the National Broadband Network is, particularly for communities in regional Australia. The fact is that today’s announcement is good news for Australian consumers and good news for shareholders. The definitive agreement between NBN Co. and Telstra is a binding commitment by Telstra to decommission its copper network and HFC network capability and transfer its customers to NBN. The definitive agreement with Optus will ensure that Optus decommissions its HFC network and transfers its customers to the NBN. These agreements pave the way for structural separation, building on the work on the legislation that was carried through this chamber.

Mr Truss interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE: The Nats opposite say, ‘Communist government.’ ‘Communist government,’ says the Leader of the National Party. There has been a bit of rhetoric recently about extremist parties and a bit of sloganeering around. That might be one of the reasons why those opposite are so opposed to modern telecommunications. If they logged on to the internet, they would be able to see one of their heroes, Lord Monckton—

Mr Pyne: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: it is an improvement on ‘break glass Work Choices’, but I do not think that the Lord Monckton issue could possibly be within either the minister’s responsibility or have anything whatsoever to do with this parliament or the issues before it today.

The SPEAKER: I will listen carefully to the response. The Leader of the House understands his responsibility to ensure that his material is directly related to the question.

Mr ALBANESE: Indeed it is related to the question, Mr Speaker, because what the NBN will allow is not just the downloading but the uploading of material—uploading of material at faster speeds and at higher quality. It will improve education, for example. It will be even better, once the NBN reaches full speed, for watching Lord Monckton’s speech at the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies convention on 30 June 2011 in Perth. The Leader of the Opposition is of course opening that particular convention in spite of the fact that, if you look on the internet and use modern communications, you can see that Lord Monckton has branded Professor Garnaut a Nazi. But they think that is okay over there.

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister must not use a prop and he must relate his material directly to the question.

Mr ALBANESE: Indeed I am doing so, Mr Speaker. Those opposite say this is about communism. Those opposite took a public monopoly, turned it into a private monopoly and called it reform. That was their policy objective. This is what the member for Bradfield described their failure as:

… the equivalent of Qantas owning all the airports. The result: competition is weak.

This is what the member for Wentworth said about the failure of the former government’s 20 different plans:

It was honestly a failure of imagination on our part in government.

That is what he had to say and he was right. He is right about the mad monk, he is right about Lord Monckton and he is right about this.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER: Order! The Minister—

Mr ALBANESE: Labor is doing the job properly. We are providing for real—

Mr Ruddock: He is ignoring the Speaker!

The SPEAKER: Order! There are plenty of people ignoring the Speaker, Member for Berowra.

Mr Sidebottom interjecting—

The SPEAKER: The member for Braddon will withdraw.

Mr Sidebottom: I withdraw.

Mr Albanese interjecting—

The SPEAKER: Now the Leader of the House will withdraw.

Mr ALBANESE: I withdraw.

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will be heard in silence.

Mr ALBANESE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Labor is doing the job properly: real structural separation, real change and a better deal for regional Australia, for health services and for education. In their own words, they seek to demolish the NBN. What today shows is how out of touch they are with the people currently delivering telecommunications and those who would deliver it in the future.

(Time expired)