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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 2174

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (11:57 AM) —The National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010 proposed by the member for Wentworth is eminently sensible. The sense of it is echoed in the voice of the OECD, which in turn is the voice of Treasury. The OECD says very simply that there should be an analysis of the NBN’s financial returns, as required under this bill proposed by the member for Wentworth.

The OECD says some very important things that are relevant to support of this bill. It says that the government:

… should not trigger a weakening of competition in wholesale broadband services to protect the viability of the government project. An alternative to this picking-the-winner strategy would be to let the market guide choices between the various Internet service options on the basis of prices that reflect costs, factoring in externalities that ought first to be evaluated. To that end, it would be desirable to maintain competition between technologies and, within each technology, between Internet service providers.

The question is not one of availability of high-speed broadband; it is a question of affordability. An analysis of published figures shows that, of those people earning less than $40,000 a year, only 43 per cent utilise the internet, while for those earning over $120,000 a year, there is 94 per cent utilisation. You can dangle the diamond standard before the people if you wish, but the poor will only be able to look, because they will not be able to afford this very expensive mechanism.

By passing this bill and putting its provisions into action, we would see that the government ought not to be creating a new monopoly and picking winners but allowing the market to operate. We would also see that the Productivity Commission has the wherewithal to be able to give guidance on this. This bill is not a delaying tactic; it is an eminently sensible way to proceed and I thoroughly support it.

If you look at the terms of reference for the Productivity Commission in the legislation, as outlined by the member for Wentworth, you can see that it includes things that one would think any sensible government would wish to look at. It includes an analysis of the availability of broadband services across Australia and the identification of those suburbs and regions where current services are of a lesser standard or provided at a higher price than the best services available in the city. The Productivity Commission would also consider the take-up rate, the economy wide benefits likely to flow and the different options by which broadband services of particular speed could be made available—all eminently sensible.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 12 noon, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 34. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for a later hour and the member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.