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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7356

Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (16:59): I rise to speak in support of the Telecom­munications Legislation Amend­ment (Fibre Deployment) Bill 2011. In reflecting on the comments of the member for Bradfield, one would think that compet­ition is at the heart of this bill and the sole and only interest he has in the debate. The reality is that we are dealing with a very practical, real-life matter that will impact profoundly on the lives of Australians, and I am very pleased to support the bill put to the House.

This bill puts into legislation an election commitment to make sure that all new developments, subject to exceptions, are fibre friendly. That means that new resid­ential developments will be able to connect to a fibre-to-the-premises network without the need for further work being done to the premises. At its heart, this is an equity issue. The bill applies to developments conducted by corporations, which includes the vast majority of development and construction companies nationally. The bill certainly has application on the Central Coast, the region that I represent, and it has the capacity to significantly enhance employment and life outcomes for people living in new dwellings on the Central Coast.

Given that the National Broadband Net­work is a Commonwealth project des­igned to benefit the national economy, it is very desirable that this legislation be enforced under Commonwealth law. As with many other members of the House, the National Broadband Network has been a priority issue in my electorate and much of my work as a local member in this term of parliament has been to ensure that the potential of the NBN is effectively understood. I have been working very hard with local health, educ­ation and other business sector partners to help to bring about the earliest possible rollout in my electorate.

I have been meeting with key stakeholders on the NBN on a regular basis and have been campaigning for a priority rollout on the Central Coast. Key people driving this initiative in my area include Dave Abrahams, an IT specialist, who has become quite a champion of the NBN, Edgar Adams, a local business advocate and representative, and even Paul Budde, who consults intern­ationally on the NBN. Each of these men and other leaders in our community see that connecting the NBN to all premises, both new and established premises, is a critical part of ensuring that all Australians are able to move forward together as this technology becomes available. The National Broadband Network certainly arouses great interest in my electorate and it is seen by many local business owners and community leaders as a critical means by which to level the playing field between those living in regions such as mine and those living in the cities, represented by the member for Bradfield, and to come to some equitable arrangement in terms of access to the world economy.

The Central Coast is a region with unique challenges. It is a growing area, a place where small business is vital for the health of the local economy and where new develop­ments are coming online. On the Central Coast, small businesses provide services and employment for the people in our region. I am very proud of our local businesses and I am particularly proud of local IT companies that compete nationally and internationally to provide services. Many of these small and medium sized businesses operate from the Central Coast and provide local employment and opportunities for our residents. I certain­ly will support anything in this parliament that enables better participation and more local employment, and I herald the excel­lence of our local staff in engaging in this growing field.

In terms of the personal and business assets that we have on the Central Coast, I believe that the National Broadband Network will help us to develop and extend already successful businesses to further improve their success and, because of that, I support this bill which will enable a more effective rollout of the NBN in the region. In ensuring that development corporations install the carrying infrastructure of the NBN, the general rollout of infrastructure will certainly be more efficient and effective. The bill will also ensure that, after the National Broad­band Network has been rolled out, all new developments fulfil their responsibilities as to future applications of the internet in the delivery of health and education to homes through the installation of fibre-friendly infrastructure.

It is also vital that we are prepared for the reality that new businesses and new business models are yet to be born and that their infancy may be in small businesses, not in boardrooms with desks and those sorts of facilities, but in small home offices or in the new mobile world of local cafes in which entrepreneurs are increasingly doing busin­ess in open-to-view social settings. This is common-sense legislation. It is a move to equity because it will ensure that new residential premises, where new businesses may well be emerging, are able to take complete advantage of the NBN. The bill will also enable the cost of the NBN to be reduced in new residential developments because there will be access to non-carrier ductwork in those developments.

This bill represents an initiative to roll out the National Broadband Network in an efficient and effective way. No-one can deny that rolling out the NBN is a challenge in terms of infrastructure. But nation building infrastructure is always challenging; it is both visionary and practically challenging. It is always a challenge for any government to provide critical new infrastructure. We have only to look back at the challenges faced by governments that undertook commitments to roll out the railways across this great country of ours, the national road network to connect us across all of those miles and the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. All those critical pieces of infrastructure involved having a vision for the future and a commitment to ensuring that the practical work was undertaken to enable them to come into being.

Infrastructure as comprehensive as the National Broadband Network is certainly ambitious, but it is also very responsible. It is ambitious in that it calls on our generation at this time to invest in the capacities of the next generation and to make the NBN a critically productive part of our economy. It is responsible because we know that, without access to this internationally empowering technology, we would be making a decision to exclude our people from participation in the global digital economy and workplace.

I often hear from, and read reports about, people from the conservative side of politics who assert, with misunderstanding, that this vital piece of infrastructure is not needed. But I am delighted to be part of this government, which has decided to undertake the challenge and commit itself to ensuring that the project is completed. I do hear from the other side of politics that we should not be bothered with this and that it will be a blow to competition. But competition will not support people in homes yet to be built if we do not support this legislation and put it in place to the advantage of new home dwellers. The NBN is certainly not just about upload capacity. It is far more sophisticated than that. It does a lot more than enable fast downloads of movies. It has the capacity to transform our economy and also to have a profound impact on social benefits for our community. In terms of its social impact, one of the critical things that we have seen just in the last couple of days is the capacity for medical appointments to be teleconferenced across large distances. Currently this can happen in established premises but this bill will address the reality of yet-to-be-built premises also having the capacity to delivery health services, and that needs to be considered in the development of this bill.

The national economy as a whole benefits from the economic growth and health of the nation's regional areas. The economic poten­tial of an area such as mine needs to be realised, and this can only be done that if we are able to engage with the global market. Another social benefit of the National Broadband Network is obviously education. In my area we have the benefit of quality public and private schooling. Our children certainly benefit from access to these quality schools. When they return home to their new houses in new developments they need to be able to access the internet. We need to get on with this job in a way that is equitable. University students on the Central Coast are also critically impacted by decisions made in this place about the rollout of the NBN. Currently students can access materials online and correspond with other students online, but they also need to be able to do this from the sites at their homes, in the new developments, and critically that is what this bill is dealing with.

High-speed broadband based on fibre-optic technology will be vital in enabling the development of a great future for Australia. It will provide regional schools with resources; it will provide regional commu­nities with access to health. This is a nation building initiative. It is going to have far-reaching consequences on which this parliament can look back with pride.

This bill enshrines the powers invested in the Australian Communications and Media Authority to develop standards in relation to third-party use of the network. The long-term success of the National Broadband Network is absolutely reliant on the successful interr­elation between owners of the infrastructure and the providers. The powers that have been invested in the ACMA and the ACCC will ensure that there is appropriate regulation and competition in the provision of these services from the National Broadband Network.

I support this bill because it demonstrates the government's commitment to ensuring a vital piece of infrastructure for Australia's future is completed and a success for all Australians. This goes exactly to a comment made by the member for New England: 'You do it once, you do it right and you do it with fibre'. I look forward to the day when the National Broadband Network has been constructed and our economy and society is advancing as a result, be it in new or established housing. I know that day will arrive, and I believe when it does my cons­tituents will benefit enormously. I commend this bill to the House.