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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6435


Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (12:57 PM) —I thank those who have participated in this process. Once again, we have seen a divide on broadband and the digital economy in this House, with the government members supporting action and the opposition members, after 12 years of inaction, carping and being negative. A number of questions have been raised. I note that the member for Dunkley asked about Infrastructure Australia and its process. Indeed, for the benefit of the opposition, let me quote from Infrastructure Australia’s National infrastructure priorities report:

The importance of an accessible and fast broadband network to Australia’s international competitiveness is almost impossible to overstate.

They went on to say:

Infrastructure Australia supports an investment from the Building Australia Fund to develop the National Broadband Network.

They have a very clear position on the National Broadband Network: they support it. The opposition oppose it, after 18 schemes that failed to deliver.

I was also asked about the Digital Regions Initiative. This is a $60 million initiative, a key element of the government’s response to the regional telecommunications review. It will fund innovative and sustainable projects which improve healthcare, education and emergency services in regional, rural and remote communities. The Digital Regions Initiative will form partnerships with state, territory and local governments to drive delivery in these key services, and implementation of this initiative is indeed on track. The draft guidelines for the initiative were released on Monday of this week as part of the consultation process; the release of the initiative’s final program guidelines and call for applications is scheduled for the second half of 2009.

I was also asked about the coverage of the FTTP network. In order to achieve 90 per cent coverage it is expected that the network will extend to towns with a population of around 1,000 or more. However, the towns with a population of 1,000 figure is not a cut-off figure and has been stated purely to give an idea about how far the FTTP element of the NBN will extend.

On the issue of ISP filtering, the government has established a live pilot. This demonstrates the government’s commitment to consulting with industry and taking an evidence based approach to ISP filtering. The pilot, together with a range of other inputs, will help guide development of policy on ISP filtering. On the question of what the government proposes would be filtered, ‘refused classification’ content includes child pornography, child sexual abuse imagery, bestiality, sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime and material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act—all of which, I am sure every member of this parliament would agree, is inappropriate content. The live pilot is testing potential impacts of different filtering technologies on internet speeds, accuracy of filters, circumvention, costs and customer experiences in a real-world environment.

In terms of the Tasmanian rollout, the Commonwealth has commenced negotiations with the Tasmanian government to expedite the rollout of the NBN in Tasmania. I note the Tasmanian government’s budget announcement of this week that it will contribute $12.7 million in equity to Aurora Energy over three years to support the future operation of the NBN in Tasmania. Indeed, as the shadow minister for broadband, the member for Dunkley, said:

I am calling on Senator Conroy to guarantee the people of Tasmania that they will be among the first in the nation to gain affordable new broadband services …

They did nothing about it in government, but I am pleased that, in opposition, they are supporting the government’s action in rolling out broadband in Tasmania.

I was also asked about the ABC and SBS by the member for Page. It is pretty clear that the ABC plays a particularly important role in regional Australia. As regional development minister, I certainly acknowledge that. I pay tribute to the ABC for the particularly important role it played in the Victorian bushfires, the Queensland floods and the northern New South Wales floods. The ABC is a great national asset. It is one that we should cherish. It is one that we should acknowledge. It plays a particularly important role in regional Australia.

I thank all those who have participated in the debate today. I have answered what was certainly a range of questions, given that those opposite tended to give five-minute responses with 20 or 30 questions in them. It is impossible—


Mr Billson —Minister, your people did not even stay!


Mr ALBANESE —At least the opposition showed up for this portfolio, unlike for the previous debate on human services, when they did not show up and the Main Committee simply collapsed, which was why it had to be suspended. I commend the appropriation to the House. I congratulate the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, my colleague and friend Senator Stephen Conroy, for the magnificent job that he has done and the leadership he is showing in his portfolio.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Sitting suspended from 1.05 pm to 4.00 pm

Defence Portfolio

Proposed expenditure $22,972,194,000