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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9361


Mr RIPOLL (12:03 PM) —It is a pleasure to continue from where I left off on this very important bill about the National Broadband Network, theTelecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures—Network Information) Bill 2009. It is one of those nation-building infrastructure bills and it is incumbent on all of us in this place to not only pass it but to go out and promote it and to assist government in whatever way we can to make sure that this historic National Broadband Network can be implemented. On 7 April the government made a historic announcement by establishing a company that would invest over $43 billion to roll out a superfast fibre-optic based national broadband network, something which I know all Australians are very excited about and something that I know my community is very excited about; my constituents, people who live and work in my area, people who commute in and out of my area and all the businesses in my region as well.

The National Broadband Network will fundamentally change forever Australia’s communications landscape. It will create a new environment. It will create the capacity for Australians to communicate not only domestically but internationally at a level we have not seen before. In comparison to the rest of the world when we talk about competition, it will bring Australia to the competitive front. It will mean that we can compete in the Asia-Pacific region and with the rest of the globe, including the United States. We will be able to communicate, to transact and take part in commerce. New areas that we have not even yet thought of will be created through providing this opportunity, providing this vehicle that this government is moving forward to do.

I mentioned when I started speaking on this bill last week that we hear a lot from the other side but we do not hear the right sounds. We hear a lot of complaint, that it is too much, too little, too late, too soon—there is always some problem. We do not hear anything about the positives, that in the end it takes a government with courage to finally step up to the mark and get on with the job and make this happen. Once it begins, as it is now beginning, the whole of Australia can come along with the development that is taking place. I would be more interested to hear from the other side what they have to say in terms of their own communities and the new opportunities that will be created in their own electorates, particularly country members who sit in this place who can see the vast opportunities that will be provided to farming communities, to agriculture, to commerce, to people that trade via the web and via the internet, when a government finally stumps up some real cash—$43 billion, in partnership with the private sector—to make these things happen.

It may be more important to me than some; I am not sure about that. But I know this particular legislation is very important, why we are doing it and the powers that will be created in the formation of this new company. The western corridor that I represent, particularly that part of the western corridor between Brisbane and Ipswich, for many years has had a substandard service provision of internet and broadband facilities. That in itself is pretty commonplace right across Australia, particularly in new areas, where there has been a lack of investment by telecommunications companies—Telstra to name one, but others as well—where they just have not invested either in fibre optics or other cables that are needed to actually provide the sorts of networks that are required by people today, whether it is for provision of health services, whether it is for education or whatever it might be.

What is pretty exciting about Queensland and the western corridor is that there are some real opportunities, and there are some real opportunities that exist in my electorate. The Springfield Land Corporation has been noted for many years as being the leader on a whole range of fronts, with some very innovative development through Education City and now Health City, with the education it has provided in the region, with some of the very innovative ways it has developed a community, and now also in telecommunications with the completion of the Polaris Data Centre. This is a world-standard, top-level, top-security building which provides data storage. It is capable of housing data from anywhere in the world, for organisations ranging from technology companies through to banks and governments. It is quite an important piece of infrastructure in my electorate. Not only is it a job creator, providing new jobs, jobs of the future, but it really does create a whole new economy. I think that is the key to this debate. It is about the creation of new jobs in a new economy, an economy that will not start, that will not have the parts in place, until we have a national broadband network in this country. That is why this bill is so important, not just to me and my local region in the western corridor of Queensland but right across Australia—because of the new economy that it will create.

I want to put on record my support for the opportunity that is taking place in Queensland. I want to encourage the Queensland state government. I want to ask people to take the opportunity to work together in partnership. We are providing the tools, the vehicles and the investment here federally to make that all happen. For Queensland there is an opportunity to find a place to centralise a network operations centre, a NOC, to be able to house these operations, the back office operations, to be able to have a place with the facility, the infrastructure and the security, with the pipeline and the cables already in the ground for that to happen. There is nowhere in Queensland better suited or more ready to go than the western corridor. It is an opportunity I know Queensland is currently investigating.

I believe the Queensland government is in the process of looking at also investing in a fibre spur that would link the Gold Coast of Queensland to the Pipe Networks PPC-1 international submarine cable network that links Sydney to Guam. This is a fantastic opportunity. This is an opportunity that should not be wasted. I believe the Queensland government is committing to offering a connectivity solution to the National Broadband Network Co. that we have created. The Queensland government will provide the National Broadband Network Co. with single-hop connectivity to the United States of America, Japan, Singapore and India, a direct five-gigabyte link to these key markets, for a period of at least 10 years.

While in Canberra we are putting together the vehicles, the investment and the structures that we need and the legislation to make all this happen, the Queensland state government also has a role—as I know other state governments will have also—in making sure that we can have the network in place and can use it to its full capacity. I can think of no better way than by connecting what we are doing with what the Queensland government is proposing to do with the submarine cable network linking Sydney to Guam—linking it directly to Queensland through the Gold Coast. This will have a whole range of benefits—as you can imagine, Mr Speaker—in a whole variety of areas, including commerce, trade and connectivity between countries for sharing of information on health, education and a whole range of other areas. There are some wonderful opportunities that exist.

There are other opportunities that exist out of this vehicle that we have created, and Queensland can play its role. There are a number of companies globally and a number of companies nationally here in Australia that are already working in partnership and have the capacity to deliver the sort of technical expertise that we need to make the National Broadband Network happen. The reality is that we are only going to get one shot at getting this right. We are only going to get one opportunity, and that opportunity needs to be taken in the best possible manner. I want to encourage both the National Broadband Network Co. and the Queensland state government to look at a trial of 5,000 homes or thereabouts in the western corridor and look at how you actually roll this out—basically use it as a test bed as you are rolling it out to make sure that the National Broadband Network works as efficiently as possible and is as best placed as possible. You can do that in conjunction with the rollout. You can actually have it working at the same time.

This is quite important when you look at centralising a networks operations centre. You need a back office operation. You need somewhere where that infrastructure exists, somewhere where you can deliver all the key parts—the management, the technical expertise, the connectivity, the billing arrangements and the connection with what the National Broadband Network Co. does with its customers, with the carriers and service providers. I think that link is going to be critical.

We will certainly provide the legislative framework to ensure that we have the information and that we have access to the hard infrastructure—the poles, the cables and whatever other parts of infrastructure we need. Critically important in this will be to bring together all of those partners. That is contained in our legislation. We talk about the partnerships with the business sector, with commerce, to make sure that we can deliver in all of these areas. Pipe Networks, which I spoke about just a moment ago, would operate a network across the fibre spur which would provide carriage directly to Guam. In Guam, the network would then link into the global reach of the Tata Communications network via the United States of America through to Tokyo, Singapore and India. This is an incredible opportunity for Australia, one that would not exist or could not be fulfilled if it were not for the National Broadband Network.

As I said earlier, it is particularly exciting for me because of the opportunity I can see arising for the western corridor. We have the infrastructure in place today. We talk about shovel-ready projects and infrastructure that is ready to be delivered. Well, in the western corridor, we are prepared and we are ready to deliver now. I will be doing everything I can as the representative of that area—and it will benefit not just my electorate but also the broader western corridor and all of Queensland—to make sure we can get that partnership happening at a high level to ensure that the Queensland government, through its commercial partners and the National Broadband Network Co., can provide a network operations centre.

For us here in the parliament, trying to put together something of this size is obviously a massive undertaking. It is an undertaking that will span over the next eight years—well beyond this parliament and possibly even the one after that. It is the sort of long-range, long-term critical infrastructure decision making that governments ought to be about. We have heard for many years the complaints from the community that governments only ever focus on the short term—what gets them through the next election cycle. Well, this is not one of those areas. This is an area of significant investment, significant partnership and significant longevity that will deliver for Australia long into the future—beyond this generation and well into the next. It will provide a platform for Australia to compete in a whole range of areas where we have not been able to compete up until today. So I am very proud of being able to support this legislation.

I want to make particular reference to setting up Australia as a financial services hub. I am currently having a bit of work and research done in that area, as I am particularly interested in it. It is particularly linked to the National Broadband Network. There are a whole range of barriers to Australia being a financial services hub in the Asia-Pacific region, including the lack of decent connectivity and our lack of punch—and we need a broadband network in Australia to deliver that.

All members of the parliament, including those on the other side, ought to consider this for a moment. A National Broadband Network is a really key factor in being able to use Australia, with its proximity to the Asia-Pacific region, as a stepping stone, a springboard, to link the world. We can achieve that because of our good governance practices, our high-end expertise in terms of financial services and products and our managerial expertise. We can break down one of the barriers to achieving that by having a National Broadband Network. It requires a massive investment over a very long time, and I know that it will be a complete success. It will be a success because of the way we have approached this.

I want to again encourage the National Broadband Network Co. to look very closely at some of the significant partnerships that currently exist in the western corridor. The reasons the National Broadband Network should be based in the western corridor are not necessarily based on profit. The western corridor would provide a scalable option in terms of delivering upfront a place to start the National Broadband Network on the Australian mainland. It would also bring together existing significant partners, including NEC, which can carry out the deployment in parts of Queensland; the Queensland government itself, which can provide the data centre space for a network operations centre; the Ipswich City Council, in my area; the Brisbane City Council, which can assist in the fast-tracking of approvals and working in partnership with both the federal government and the Queensland government; the University of Queensland, which is currently based in the western corridor, which can provide research and development activities; the University of Southern Queensland, also located on site, which can also provide some expertise and development activities; and the local developer, the Springfield Land Corporation, which can provide the backhaul and perhaps even temporary office accommodation—right there in the western corridor and ready to go.

This truly is an opportunity which needs to be looked at seriously. If there is any better place in Queensland, I would like to hear about it. But I certainly believe very strongly that the National Broadband Network headquarters for Queensland should be in the western corridor. It would provide the best opportunity in terms of economies of scale, locality and the most efficient way to use the existing infrastructure. The western corridor provides not only that infrastructure opportunity but also a range of other opportunities. It has a workforce that is ready to deliver a range of people working in broadband and internet provision. They are already working in the area through NEC. The people with the right skills—designers, engineers, project managers and a whole range of other people—are already located throughout the western corridor.

There is an opportunity for both the Brisbane CBD and areas outside the Brisbane CBD to play their part. The best place for the networks operation centre is definitely in the western corridor, because of all the things I have mentioned, and perhaps the legal and management services and associated administrative services could be provided in the Brisbane CBD. This is a one-off opportunity. It cannot be replicated; it has to be done right the first time. I am going to speak to the ministers responsible and to the governments, including the state government, to ensure that we get this right. I have spoken to the individual partners. They have been meeting over a period of time, because they have seen a great opportunity to be partners in this. If we all work together we can not only deliver a National Broadband Network, but do so in the most efficient, cost-effective and timely manner possible, which would benefit all Queenslanders and all Australians. It will set Australia on a future path to be a global competitor—which has not been seen in the past—and create jobs in the future. That is something we all know we want to do.