Jun 2, 2011

Question without notice – The National Broadband Network & e-communication

JOEL FITZGIBBON (Member for Hunter) – My question is to the Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport representing the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. What progress is being made on the rollout of the National Broadband Network? Why is e-communication important both to members of the House and to the broader community? How has the government’s NBN agenda been received and what is the government’s response?

ANTHONY ALBANESE – I thank the member for Hunter and Chief Government Whip for that question. Indeed, this week has seen some substantial progress on the rollout of fast, affordable, universal broadband. We believe that the NBN is the single most important piece of infrastructure that we could deliver for the 21st century economy. It is important in terms of securing our future prosperity. It will change the way that we work and it will change the way that we live.

Just this week the minister released the bold and visionary Digital Economy Strategy. This shows how the NBN will position Australia among the best countries in the world for broadband connection. We announced $60 million in new programs to help communities, small businesses and teachers maximise opportunities from the NBN. We announced that NBN Co. has reached agreement for the first large-scale deployment of fibre-optic cable for the NBN covering almost 40 per cent of construction activity planned for the next two years. Also, we confirmed another agreement worth up to $1.1 billion to deploy next-generation fixed wireless broadband to regional and rural areas so that commercial fixed wireless services can start mid next year, with the full rollout finished by 2015.

I was also asked about this has been received and the importance of e-communication to members of parliament and members of the general community. You would think that with all of these positive programs the opposition would have something to say. But we are now at June and we still have not had a question on these issues by the shadow minister in this House. Not one for all of 2011. There are explanations why the shadow minister has a bit of an aversion when it comes to emails, given his experience in the past, because we know that last week the member for Leichhardt sent an email to all of his colleagues—it was nothing personal—chastising the member for Wentworth.

I understand the embarrassment of those opposite with regard to these issues. They say of course that it was not personal. Well, the member for Calare missed a division just this morning, so I am sure there will be an email out there bagging him, as well, just like the member for Wentworth got an email about this issue.

But so divided are those opposite that they had to issue a press release saying that the shadow minister was having dinner with the shadow Treasurer on Tuesday night. They are so divided that they cannot bring themselves to engage in a debate about the National Broadband Network. You cannot say that the National Broadband Network is a significant piece of infrastructure in this country and then have nothing to say for it. But we know that the member for Wentworth was given the job of wrecking the NBN. And I note that the Leader of the Opposition was out at a wreckers earlier today. How appropriate that the wrecker was at a wreckers earlier today.