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Thursday, 24 March 2011
Page: 3271

Mrs PRENTICE (12:21 PM) —I speak in support of proper discussion and debate on this issue. Once again, we see the minister and the government trying to rush through legislation on NBN Co. From day one we said that they had not got it right, and 22 pages of amendments from the Senate show that to be true. No-one disputes the need for high-speed broadband. But, as we said from day one, not at any cost to the taxpayers.

Mr Albanese —Not the ratepayers; we’re in parliament now.

Mrs PRENTICE —Indeed. Look at the waste of money in getting people to return today.

Mr Albanese —You want us to come back.

Mrs PRENTICE —We want a proper debate. You want us to be here for just two hours. You want to rush it through. This is a shambles. Your legislation is incompetent, because you had not got the model correct in the first place. The minister quoted Campbell Newman as wanting broadband delivered sooner rather than later. What Campbell Newman said was that he wanted fast broadband but not with the NBN Co. model. In fact, if the minister had bothered responding to correspondence from Brisbane City Council over a year ago he might have had some assistance with getting the model and, subsequently, the legislation correct. But they chose to ignore those approaches at the time.

I find it appalling that the minister should suggest that because the Senate has dealt with the issues we should support this without debate. These are very important amendments.

Mr Albanese —You are the ones blocking the debate. Put your amendments.

Mrs PRENTICE —The minister clearly said that we should ignore it. We will be putting amendments forward, and plenty of them.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—The member will resist responding to interjections.

Mrs PRENTICE —What we have seen today is yet another waste of time and money by the government. This particular project will be the largest capital infrastructure project in this country. It has risen from $4.7 billion to $47 billion and growing. As we know, the initial rollout has expanded in time and has also expanded in cost. And yet the minister and the government have not bothered tabling the cost to date of the initial rollout because once again it is over budget. These amendments will allow no scrutiny of the NBN by the government or anyone else. If you look through some of the amendments, they suggest that even the ACCC should have no power when it comes to scrutinising the NBN Co. This is because it is a monopoly and they do not want to be caught out once again with an old-fashioned and outdated model, which is what we saw previously. Broadband is the technology for the future. But the NBN Co. model is outdated, based on last century corporations and operations. We need an open access system. We do not need another monopoly controlled by the government. We have seen where that ends up.

The minister claims that there were five separate reports done, each a result of a coalition request. My memory is that the most important request that we made, which was critical for the people of Australia, was for a cost-benefit analysis. Yet that was not done and has not been provided for scrutiny, because it will not stack up. The minister quoted a list of other countries with faster broadband speed to show that Australia was lagging and needed to roll out broadband. And yet once again the minister failed to say that those countries did not fund it all from government money. They did not spend $47 billion-plus for broadband to be rolled out in their countries, which is what he is committing Australians to.

We should not be surprised at this government’s incompetence. We only have to look at the pink batts project, which has cost more to fix than the initial projected cost to roll it out. Unfortunately, we are going to see more and more of these amendments as the NBN Co. model staggers and fails. We have seen the increases in cost. Yet, at the same time, we have seen a reduction in the number of people who are going to be connected—two million fewer people. We should look at the people who this should benefit, the people in the rural and regional areas. The Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee chairman, Dr Bill Glasson, was hoping for some benefits from the NBN Co. Yet on 28 March he said that the amendments were ‘immoral and unjustified’. That is from someone who was looking forward to the potential benefits of this who can now see what a disaster we are getting ourselves into.

The bottom line is that this government cannot manage their legislation. They cannot manage what they are delivering. Their putting forward more than 22 pages of amendments is another example of their incompetence. We can have absolutely no confidence that they will be able to roll out the NBN. As we have seen, it is already behind schedule. We are looking at past 2030. I would suggest that by the time they get it right the technology will be obsolete, and at great cost to the taxpayers. We cannot encourage their continued incompetence. We need to properly discuss this in greater detail so that everyone can have some input to their flawed legislation.