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Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Page: 12039

Ms O'NEIL (Hotham) (16:05): It is with some envy, to be honest, that I hear these stories from the other side of the chamber about the lavish impact that the NBN is having on households in the electorates of those opposite because the story of my electorate, like the member for Newcastle has described, could not be more different. I want to tell you about a constituent of mine named David, who contacted me in a state of extreme agitation about six months ago. This person is a father of two, is an IT professional and had just moved into a house in Heatherton. He was having trouble with internet connectivity.

He was not complaining because he did not have access to superfast broadband or the NBN. He was not complaining because he did not have access to ADSL2+. He was complaining because he did not have internet access at all. This is an IT professional with two children who were at school, for whom internet is a critical part of their education, and this is a person who does not live in a remote area of the country. This is not someone located in the middle of the desert; this is someone who lives in right in the heart of the second-biggest city in this country. So what we have is a major problem on our hands.

I am glad that the member for Solomon is happy with what has happened with her electorate. I would point out that most of the work that is connecting her constituents to the National Broadband Network happened under Labor. In the two years that the coalition has been in government, not a single additional person has been connected to the NBN in the seat of Hotham. The only people who are connected to the NBN are those in a small section of Springvale South, and they were connected to the NBN under a Labor government.

It is not just individuals in my electorate that are concerned about the really poor state of internet in my area. I received in July a letter from seven municipalities in Melbourne's south-east. Collectively these councils govern $63 billion in economic impact in my city, and they wrote me the most extraordinary letter talking about a study that they have conducted in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne which shows that 85 per cent of these businesses in this region—many of which are high-end manufacturing businesses that are struggling to convert from the old economy to the new economy—are today relying on ADSL2+. This is not the sort of infrastructure and this is not the sort of technology that is going to see us capture the jobs of the future that the Prime Minister speaks about so excitedly.

There is a much broader economic impact. We talk about all of our electorates, but together they add up to Australia. What we know is that this is the Snowy Mountains Scheme of our age. This is the critical piece of infrastructure that we need to invest in to ensure that all of our children are going to be able to flourish in what will be a knowledge economy for developing countries.

Our shadow minister made some really interesting points before, and one of them is this. If there is one thing you take away from the words I say in the chamber today it is that, at the moment, Australia is 44th in the world for internet speed, and we are currently in decline. This puts us behind not just economies that are bigger and more developed than Australia's but behind places like Romania, Russia and Slovakia. So I say again that we can hear all of the exciting platitudes from the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, but, when it comes to policy on the ground, we are not seeing the hard yards being done.

There are three quick points that I want to make about the performance of the Prime Minister when he was in the role of communications minister—three enormous disappointments that all Australians should understand when they are beginning to make their assessment of the new Prime Minister. The first point is the cost of the NBN. This person, who is now our Prime Minister, promised that this second-rate NBN would be built for $29.5 billion. He revised those assumptions about six months after he first made that statement, and then, in more recent times, he has revised the cost again to $56 billion. This is the person who, we are being led to believe, talks a big game about his commercial background, but here we have a project that, within a two-year period, he essentially doubled the cost of. In terms of pace, the Prime Minister told us it would be delivered by 2016. That is clearly not going to happen, because all of my electorate would have to be connected over the next year. We are now being told that it will take to 2020 to install this critical piece of infrastructure. The final point is about the quality. Members on the other side need to really understand this: copper and fibre are not the same thing. We heard the member for Solomon say: 'Isn't it great we've been able to deliver it at a lower cost and it is exactly the same product.' Wrong, wrong, wrong. And what I find so frustrating about this is that we will only get one chance to do this, and we are messing up that chance because of this Prime Minister. (Time expired)