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Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Page: 932

Ms ROWLAND (2:14 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. How is the structural separation of Telstra a key step in delivering the National Broadband Network, and why is it important that Australian households and businesses get the benefits of this essential infrastructure?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Greenway for her question, which is about an important issue for the future of the country, for the prosperity of every Australian, for the future of health services and for the future of education services. I would suggest that nothing better marks the contrast between the political parties in this parliament than the contrast between her question and the one asked before it. Yes, we are determined to build a prosperous future for this country with world-class infrastructure. Today we are reintroducing into this parliament the legislation that enables the structural separation of Telstra so that we can build the National Broadband Network and give Australia the infrastructure of the future.

On the merits of this legislation, the House does not have to take reassurances from me. It can actually turn to the words of the member for Bradfield, Paul Fletcher, who wrote a book called Wired Brown Land? Telstra’s Battle for Broadband. He, of course, is now acting as the shadow shadow communications minister, as I understand it. It is a new convention in the opposition that they have shadow shadow everything. The member for Goldstein is the shadow shadow Treasurer.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister will return to the question.

Ms GILLARD —And of course the list goes on. The shadow shadow communications minister, the member for Bradfield, said in his book:

My fundamental argument is that we need to get the market structure right first; if we do that, the right technology will follow.

Then the member for Bradfield went on to say:

… a market structure in which there are multiple providers of retail telephony and broadband services—and they all operate over the same network on equal terms. For that to happen, none of them must own or control the network. Instead, they must buy services from the owner of the network and in turn the network owner must be restricted to selling services in the wholesale market rather than the retail market.

Those are very wise words indeed from the member for Bradfield. Today I would be saying to the Leader of the Opposition—

Mr Fletcher —Where’s the bit about the $43 billion?

Ms GILLARD —The member for Bradfield is trying to insert some more wise words into the debate, and I thank him for his help and contribution. My point, of course, is that we seek expeditious passage of this legislation, because every day that it is delayed is a day of higher prices and fewer services for Australians, particularly Australians in regional areas. I note that representatives of regional areas like the member for Lyne, like the member for New England and like the member for Kennedy have recognised the merits of broadband for regional areas. So to the Leader of the Opposition I simply say: get out a copy of the member for Bradfield’s book, have a look at that statement and, in line with that statement, ensure that you do not seek to wreck this reform—and get on with the job of passing this important piece of legislation.