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Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Page: 6360


Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (14:54): My question is to the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Fifield, representing the Minister for Communications. Will the minister update the Senate on the government's progress in getting the National Broadband Network back on track?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (14:55): I am pleased to report to the Senate that the coalition government is getting the NBN back on track. Colleagues will recall, I know, that by adopting a multi-technology mix—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left.

Senator FIFIELD: to deliver super-fast broadband services we will save taxpayers $32 billion—

Senator Conroy: One year, five people!

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy!

Senator FIFIELD: getting the NBN finished four years sooner and ensuring that nine out of 10 Australians in the fixed-line footprint receive speeds of 50 megabits per second or more by 2019. I am very pleased to report that the first customers are now active on NBN Co.'s pilot of fast broadband via fibre-to-the-node technology. In the past fortnight the Minister for Communications, Mr Turnbull, visited Umina on the Central Coast of New South Wales and met with residents who, from his reports, were thrilled with the new super-fast broadband connections that they have. One of those is Mr Martin McGuinness, who recently connected to the NBN via fibre to the node. Results from his connections show download speeds of 96 megabits per second and upload speeds of 30 megabits per second were his experience. These are speeds far in excess that the typical user needs, and they demonstrate that fibre-to-the-node fast broadband will come sooner and at far less cost to taxpayers. This is a great result for Central Coast communities and communities around Australia who are crying out for better and faster broadband. We can do it and we can deliver it more affordably and sooner than those opposite.

Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (14:57): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the minister inform the Senate about what local residents are saying about their super-fast fibre-to-the-node connections?

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy and Senator Bilyk and, on my right, order! Senator Conroy and Senator Carr!

Senator Cormann: Kevin Rudd is still singing your praises, Stephen.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cormann and Senator Birmingham, order!

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (14:58): Let me share with colleagues what Mr McGuinness had to say about his new super-fast fibre-to-the-node NBN connection. As I mentioned before, he is a resident of Umina, who recently connected to the network. He runs a small business that rents out boats on the Central Coast and often works from home. This is what Mr McGuinness has to say: 'Since connecting to my Telstra NBN service, the faster download times have helped me save 10 to 15 minutes off my daily work schedule. This roughly gives me an extra day off each month.' He went on the say that the NBN is also bringing us closer to the opportunities of other Australians.

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock. Senator Abetz, do you have a point of order?

Senator Abetz: As close as I am sitting to Minister Fifield, I am unable to hear what he is saying because of the noise opposite. I would invite those opposite to abide by the standing orders.

The PRESIDENT: Order on both sides. The noise has been intolerable. Senator Conroy, you are the worst offender.

Senator FIFIELD: It is clear that those opposite have no interest in the experience of Mr McGuinness and other Australians on the Central Coast and regional Australia. Those opposite want Mr McGuinness to have to wait longer. We want people to get connections sooner. (Time expired)

Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (15:00): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I realise this is really embarrassing for Senator Conroy, but will the minister advise the Senate how NBN Co plans to ramp up the rollout of superfast broadband to Australians?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (15:00): Clearly, we are fixing the mess of those opposite. The NBN have already announced plans to build 1,000 nodes across Queensland and New South Wales, covering in excess of 200,000 premises—for those opposite who want to hear. Last fortnight NBN Co confirmed that it will build an additional 300 nodes within Woy Woy in New South Wales and Warana in Queensland. The coalition's plan to get superfast broadband to Australians will happen far sooner than the plan of those opposite. Labor wants Australians to have to wait for the best part of a decade. Under the coalition, Australians will enjoy economic opportunities facilitated by the NBN sooner, cheaper and faster. (Time expired)