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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9444


Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (6:10 PM) —I want to thank all members who have contributed to the debate on the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures—Network Information) Bill 2009. The information that can be collected under this bill will be critical for the timely and cost-effective rollout of the National Broadband Network.

The government has made it clear that its preference is for relevant network information to be accessed on a cooperative and commercial basis in the first instance. The bill provides a safety net should information not be made available. The bill creates a head of power to seek information should it need to be used. The government notes the general support for the intent of this bill from participants in the Senate committee hearings, including from carriers such as Telstra and Optus and representative bodies such as the Energy Networks Association and the Water Services Association.

The government is pleased that the second reading amendment moved by the member for Dunkley does not decline to give the bill a second reading. The government does not, however, support the qualifications that it has proposed, namely:

… the House is of the opinion that:

(1) … the Government should … limit the application of this Bill to the implementation study only; and

(2) … the Government should be condemned for … refusing to conduct any cost benefit analysis of its NBN proposal …

Requiring the government to come back to parliament before information can be provided to NBN Co. Ltd is unnecessary and could delay the rollout of the network should access to that information be required. We know that those opposite delayed action on broadband for the 12 long years that they were in government. That is one thing. It is another thing for them to seek to delay the government’s decisive action when it comes to the National Broadband Network. Importantly, the bill does not empower the NBN Co. to directly compel the provision of information. The NBN Co. must work through the Commonwealth if it needs to seek information under part 27A.

The government does not accept the member for Dunkley’s claim that the government should be condemned for refusing to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. The government recognises that we need to invest in high-speed broadband infrastructure now for the benefit of the Australian economy in the short and long term. That is why it was recognised by Infrastructure Australia. It was also a key election commitment.

We believe that all Australians no matter where they live or work deserve to have access to high-speed broadband. We believe this will only become more critical over time for businesses, consumers, hospitals and schools across Australia. The Liberals and Nationals had 12 years to implement a broadband policy. Instead, they delivered 18 failed plans, setting the country back a decade. Today the best they can come up with is another study to determine the benefit of the NBN.

It is time that the opposition let us get on with the job of rolling out broadband services rather than try to further delay the development of necessary infrastructure. The government has been considering carefully the concerns raised by the opposition. At this stage the government considers the bill has the necessary elements and protections and works well in its current form. The bill already expands the existing time frame for consultation on a draft instrument from three to five business days.

On the subject of an immunity provision, the government recognises information may have limitations; however, an immunity may remove an incentive for parties to provide high-quality information, Moreover, information providers will be able to note any limitations or qualifications of the information that they provide. In response to suggestions by the member for Dunkley that the bill fails to include a cost-recovery mechanism, the government reiterates that its preference is for information to be sought on a cooperative or commercial basis and that payment could be discussed with carriers and utilities during that phase.

These are some of the reasons that the government considers the bill works well in its current form. However, the government is open to finetuning this bill where it can be demonstrated that it would genuinely improve the bill. Amendments that add value could be considered when the bill is debated in the Senate. The National Broadband Network represents 21st century nation building. It will transform the Australian economy as the rail and electricity networks transformed Australia in past centuries. This bill is a critical step in the implementation of the National Broadband Network. I call on all members to support the building of the National Broadband Network and to support this important legislation.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. KJ Andrews)—The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Dunkley has moved as an amendment that all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The immediate question is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.

Question put.