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Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Page: 12037


Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle) (15:55): The story of the nbn in the City of Newcastle could not be more different from the representations by members opposite today. I have pinched myself on a few occasions throughout this debate, just to see whether we were operating in parallel universes or not.

Under the Labor government, the City of Newcastle and my electorate of Newcastle were looking forward to every home and every business being connected to fibre to the premises. That was the promise under Labor. By the end of next year that would have been delivered—every home and every business underway. But, no! We had a change of government and Malcolm Turnbull came forward as our communications minister. And although John Key and Malcolm Turnbull think they are kind of besties now after their long weekend sleepover, their visions for the future could not be further apart. Even New Zealand, as we have heard, has long woken up to the fact that fibre to the premises is the way to go.

I can understand why members opposite are feeling somewhat confused and a little disorientated in this debate, because they have a Prime Minister who was, of course, the Minister for Communications for the couple of years that we are referring to. Now he is the Prime Minister. He has spent a couple of years trying to claw his way into that job. He finally got there and declared, 'I am a running a 21st century government here.' He just forgot to mention that he was utterly reliant on 19th century technology! So we have the 21st century government running with 19th century technology, trying to convince us all that all is well. Well, that is not going down too well in my electorate and I am pretty sure that it is not going down too well in many electorates across Australia.

Who would have thought when the Prime Minister said that he was interested in innovation and the jobs of the future that suddenly coppersmiths would be back as a main job of the future? The fact is that we have areas in a city like Newcastle—the second-oldest city in Australia—that are less than 30 minutes from the CBD and that have no access to broadband services whatsoever. They cannot even get an ADSL connection.

As the member for Perth pointed out, this government said, quite succinctly, that there was to be priority to areas that had poor quality and poor service. But those areas of my electorate had to mount massive community campaigns even to get this now Prime Minister to listen to the needs of their communities, and to get them added back onto a map that they used to be on. They were actually already part of this, getting the real nbn. They had to claw their way back onto this new map to get the second-rate nbn. And they are expected to be somewhat grateful for that nonetheless.

People do want access to high-speed broadband. There is absolutely no doubt about that. People understand very clearly that it is an enabler in our communities. It is the future for so many jobs. But also, right now, it is integral to school education and to people's workplaces. I have told this story on many occasions: I have a woman resident in the suburb of Thornton. She is an aged care nurse who has to put a dongle into her laptop and then climb onto the roof of her house to download the roster to find out what shift she is working on. She is in an area that only recently has been re-added onto the map so she has still got quite a while to wait before she has got any hope of seeing the NBN delivered into her region. Of the small businesses in my electorate, one has relocated to the Central Coast to get access to the big pipe. Another geologist in my region who does work for the mining companies actually has to load their maps onto USB and drive 2½ hours to the mine site because we do not have the technology. Anybody who thinks that is acceptable is living in an unreal world.