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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 2441

Broadband


Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (14:08): My question is to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy. Can the minister inform the Senate if he is aware of any recent research that looks at the impact of the internet on the digital economy in Australia?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:08): I thank the senator for her question. As it happens, the Boston Consulting Group released a report earlier this week which looked at the internet economy in the G20 group of nations. The report, aptly titled The $4.2 trillion opportunity, shows that the internet economies of the G20 nations, which includes Australia, will grow at an annual rate of eight per cent over the next five years. This growth will:

… far outpace just about every traditional economic sector producing wealth and jobs. No-one, not individuals, businesses or governments, can afford to ignore the ability of the internet to deliver more value and wealth to more consumers and citizens more broadly than any economic developments since the Industrial Revolution.

That is why the Gillard government is absolutely committed to investing in Australia's biggest infrastructure project, the NBN. The NBN will be a vital platform for Australia's economic prosperity well into the 21st century. It will have the reach to provide every business and every family access to world-class technology. The Gillard government's approach is in stark contrast with the opposition, who have now had 20 failed broadband plans. I strongly urge the coalition— (Time expired)


Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (14:11): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise whether he is aware of any other research that points to the importance of the National Broadband Network to Australian businesses?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:11): It may surprise you that I can. Last June the Cisco visual networking report, which I referred to in the Press Club in December, made it clear that global internet traffic increased eightfold over the past five years and will increase fourfold over the next five years. Earlier this week the chairman of the ICT Global Agenda Council at the World Economic Forum referred to this research, when he said:

If there's one thing that we know about the massive increase in the demand for broadband, it is that demand for communications infrastructure is set to grow exponentially over the next five years.

The National Broadband Network will position the Australian economy to continue to expand as part of the fast-growing Asian region.

Only the Gillard government— (Time expired)


Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (14:12): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given the economic significance of broadband, is there any research on the importance to regional Australia?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:12): I have referred previously in this place to the Page Research Centre report, authored by two good senators: Senator Nash and Senator Joyce. That report noted:

A sound telecommunications infrastructure can … assist in the economic development of non-metropolitan communities.

The report recommended a fibre solution for regional Australia and, while the current National Party policy calls for fibre to be rolled out to a majority of consumers in regional Australia, the actual coalition policy does no such thing. What is the coalition policy, you might ask? Is it a commitment to abolish the cross-subsidy? Worst still is the latest coalition broadband plan, which does not articulate any fibre delivery to regional Australia. (Time expired)