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Thursday, 25 August 2011
Page: 5521


Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (11:44): It is really important to understand exactly where we are going with the National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010 (No.2). This bill is basically to bring about transparency, to let the light in. We are told that the Labor Party has complete confidence in where the NBN is off to. It believes that certain members of its backbench are doing a fine job and it has absolute confidence in what they are doing. This poses the question to the Australian people that we have to make absolutely certain that we have trans­parency in some of these crucial issues.

We have here the largest capital investment in the history of our nation, and a cost-benefit analysis was never done. It is just the most absurd concept that we could go down this path without clearly knowing what we were about to do.

I have an older brother, Michael, a great bloke, and he loves music. He was always buying the latest form of record player, whatever it was. We started with the old—I do not know what it was; some heap of junk parked in the corner of the lounge room and onto that went the Deep Purple records, Cream, the Beatles albums, and that was what it was. Mike was always buying the latest stereo. I remember he once made a large investment in a record player that played a vinyl record with two needles—two styluses on either side. It was incredible. It played both sides of the record and you did not have to turn it over. It was amazing. That technology lasted about six or seven months and then a new piece of technology was invented, a CD player. Those things were so expensive! That was going to be the end; there would be nothing beyond the CD player! That was as good as it was going to get. So people bought a CD player. I look at what my daughter has at the moment: MP3 players and iPods. They are very small.

What the Labor Party have done is make, ultimately, a $56 billion investment in the equivalent of vinyl. They are investing in the vinyl record player. They have no concept of where this is going to go. We understand backhaul; yes, you are going to have back­haul. Fibre backhaul to the node makes a lot of sense. But the world is racing ahead, and it is racing ahead with technology such as wireless, yet the government are locked into a form of technology which the Austra­lian people have to underwrite. As you know, that vinyl record player now is completely and utterly worthless. It is a relic, something for a museum. I do not want to see our nation invested in something for a museum, because then it becomes more of the debt that this nation has to pay for.

We currently have $197 billion of debt and we are about to go on this mad frolic. Every day, the minister comes down here and tells us about the wonders of the NBN. I have heard that, at this point of time, they have 50 customers—they have cracked the half-century! That is great. So the capital cost will be in excess of $50 billion all up by the time you take in the leases, into the future of the product, and at this point of time it is about a billion dollars a customer. That's value for money! That's reasonable! This is a sign of a government that has got it all together!

Then we also had that fiasco in Armidale, where Mr Windsor came up on Ms Gillard's jet with Mr Richard Torbay, the Indepen­dent. They could not go to the university because the university's download speed was actually faster than the NBN could provide, so they formulated a wholesome stage event. It was like Shakespeare had come to Armidale in the form of the opening of the NBN. Do you remember the photo of them all there with the big, cheesy grins? They all put their hands together, they pressed the button and the lights went on. They had seven customers. What was really interesting was that the seven customers were already on. So what happened when they pressed that button? What was the button-pressing all about? The customers were already there. This is a metaphor for how completely and utterly unbelievable they are. It is the same sort of disbelief you feel when you hear them say they are doing a fine job, that they have absolute confidence, that the member will be there for a long, long time. There is nothing that we can really trust anymore.

If we were making this sort of investment of this amount of money, it would be invest­ed in things that I do not think are going to get outdated, such as ports—they do not get outdated; strategic rail and inland rail; and roads. These are the sorts of investments that deliver for our nation and take it forward. But we have compromised all this because we have blown our money on a technology that could so quickly be out of date.

The other thing is that we are buying ourselves a telephone company, a little old telephone company. The problem is that we have already got a couple of them. What is this about? How did we get ourselves once more into this position? One of the promises the Labor Party made with this was that Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott—this is why they put those economic luminaries in power—would give us uniform pricing in the regional areas. The National Party believes in uniform pricing, absolutely. We believe in it so much we moved an amendment to make sure that our people got it. We said: 'Okay, what are we pricing here? Are we pricing a name? Are we pricing the service? What is the essence of the service?' The essence of the service is download speed. That is it; that is what it is all about. So we said, 'If it's uniform pricing, let's make it genuine uniform pricing and have unit pricing on download speed across the nation.' That would be honouring the commitment.

What these sneaky people did was set up three pricing silos. They have the fibre pricing silo; that is for urban Australia. They have the wireless pricing silo; that is for regional Australia. And they have the satell­ite pricing silo; that is for remote Australia. You will find this hard to believe, but they all have different prices! I thought that Mr Windsor, being the honourable person he is—I know he is honourable because he wears elastic-sided boots—would have stood up and said: 'That's outrageous. I gave you government. I demand unit pricing. I demand what I asked for.' But no. He did not vote for it; something else was on that day. Mr Oakeshott, I thought he would have—

The PRESIDENT: Order! The time for the debate has expired, pursuant to standing orders.