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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 2171

Mr CRAIG THOMSON (11:41 AM) —I rise to oppose the National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010. Madam Deputy Speaker, let us be fair dinkum in this debate: the coalition went to the last election saying they opposed an NBN and all their actions since then have been about trying to frame an argument around how they can demolish, how they can knock off, an NBN. They are very much on their own; they are very much isolated in the approach that they have taken.

We have just heard from the member for Bradfield that if we went through a Productivity Commission review we might actually come up with another model. That would make No. 19. We would have 19 different models if we had another one come from the coalition. They had 12 years in government and what was their solution? It was, ‘Let’s come up with another plan.’ Basically, there is another plan every half-year. They say: ‘Let’s try to put as many plans as we can in place. That will justify us doing nothing in relation to making sure we have fast broadband in Australia.’

The electorate that I represent, Dobell, is on the New South Wales Central Coast. It has over 35,000 people who commute to Sydney every day. We have higher unemployment on the Central Coast than in other areas of Australia. The reason people commute to Sydney is that it is where the jobs are, and one of the reasons the jobs are not on the Central Coast is that we do not have access to fast-speed broadband. One commentator on the Central Coast who is very much a friend of the Liberal Party is now actually leading a campaign to see the NBN rolled out on the Central Coast as fast as it possibly can be. Mr Edgar Adams writes for the Central Coast Business Review—not a Labor-friendly magazine by any stretch of the imagination. His analysis of the difference between the parties is quite simple. He said:

There is no question that here on the Coast and across the nation the lack of policies and ignorance of the difference between fibre optic and wireless communications cost the Liberals government.

He is now leading a campaign to make sure that the Central Coast, like other areas of Australia, gets access through the NBN to fast broadband. The alternative we are given is to try to stop, to delay, to make sure that the NBN does not come about. Not only is it the coalition’s policy to oppose the NBN but also they have done everything they possibly can to stand in the way of Australians getting fast access to broadband. It may be all right if you live in the city where you have sufficient broadband access to conduct business, but certainly on the Central Coast—and I know that the member for Robertson, my colleague from the Central Coast, will also speak in this debate—we do not have access to fast broadband and that is affecting our economic development. Businesses avoid coming to the Central Coast because they cannot get broadband access there. The business park at Tuggerah has slow broadband. The answer is to make sure that we get the NBN in place and operational.

In calling for a cost-benefit analysis, the coalition do not come to this argument with clean hands. Where were they in relation to cost-benefit analysis when they were in government? Where were they in relation to the Adelaide-Darwin railway, the privatisation of Telstra or even the OPEL regional broadband plan? Where were their cost-benefit analyses then? The reason they did not do cost-benefit analyses then and the reason they are calling for one now is that their motive is not about a cost-benefit analysis. Their motive is only about delaying and stopping the rollout of the NBN. It was their policy at the last election. They said, ‘We are opposed to the NBN.’ They remain opposed to the NBN. The bill before parliament at the moment is a stunt, an exercise to make sure they can demolish the NBN and deny people from my region fast access to broadband, economic growth that will flow from broadband and jobs that will flow from broadband. The coalition is trying to strangle the Australian economy and the member for Wentworth should be ashamed that he is using this bill to promote his own self-interests when he knows, better than most, that the National Broadband Network is in Australia’s best interests. This bill must be opposed.