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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 6369

Broadband


Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:38): My question is to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy. Can the minister inform the Senate of any recent updates to do with pricing and affordability under the National Broadband Network and how it will benefit local residents across Australia, and in particular those people in rural and 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) (14:39): I thank Senator Bilyk for her ongoing interest in this issue. The Gillard government has always proudly stood firm by our decision to support uniform national wholesale pricing. The desire to see those in the bush pay the same as those in the city is something that we do not just pay lip service to; we are delivering on it. As a policy, this is critical in initially narrowing and ultimately defeating the digital divide experienced by so many in rural and regional Australia. This, I might add, will see 70 per cent of premises in regional and rural Australia connected to fibre.

Just today iiNet, Australia's second largest fixed line internet retailer, released their pricing plans. They are not only competitive with existing offerings in the marketplace but are providing plans and services at speeds that simply would not be possible under the opposition's 20-something failed broadband plans. The CEO of iiNet, Michael Malone, was quoted today as saying:

We have long recognised the power of a ubiquitous open access network to transform our business. The NBN allows us to deliver what we have always stood for: faster, more reliable broadband for less.

Not so long ago, Telstra were retailing their HFC cable at speeds of 100 megabits down and two megabits up, with 200 gigabits of download quota, for $179.95. The threat of entry from the NBN has seen that reduce to $109.95 per month. But compare that with the price that iiNet are now offering. (Time expired)


Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:41): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister please inform the Senate of any other recent public statements on the issue of pricing on the National Broadband Network?


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) (14:41): As I was saying, Telstra HFC is $109; iiNet is offering comparable service speeds and download limits for $79.95, a $40 saving. While I am delighted to talk about the NBN providing fast yet fairly priced broadband to all Australians, those opposite remain in denial about what this really means for people living in rural and regional Australia. As reported in today's Sydney Morning Herald, iiNet also said that wholesale access charges on the NBN would be 40 per cent cheaper than the price Telstra charged it for access in regional areas. The NBN is delivering 40 per cent cheaper wholesale pricing over Telstra. Unfortunately, under the opposition's many failed broadband plans there are no savings to come.


Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:42): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question.

Senator Johnston: There is more, is there?

Senator BILYK: If you listen carefully, you might hear more. Can the minister provide any further advice to the Senate on additional policies on telecommunications affordability for all Australians?




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) (14:42): This question has to be asked: why would you want to be a member of the National Party when the Liberals just ignore you and it is the Labor Party that is implementing the policies that you have always campaigned for? If anyone is any doubt whatsoever, let me refer you to comments made by none other than the Senate's own Senator Barnaby Joyce during an interview with Laurie Oakes back in 2005 when he called on his own government to give the 20 million people who live in such a vast country the ability to have parity of service and parity of price into the future. How times have changed. The doormats in the corner are just used to wipe the feet of the city based Liberal Party while we on this side, the Labor government, continue to deliver for regional and rural Australians. (Time expired)