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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 2401

Mr ADAMS (6:44 PM) —I wish to speak against the National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010 and the proposal to have a joint select committee to oversee the rollout of the NBN. The bill also includes a proposal for the Productivity Commission to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the National Broadband Network and to publish a business plan. Although I believe that the member for Wentworth has good intentions—or I hope he does—to try and make this a transparent process and that he thinks it will not have any impact whatsoever on the rollout of the National Broadband Network, it is a little late for him to start arguing for a cost-benefit analysis at this stage. Endless analyses, studies and arguments have suggested that this should happen and that we should be getting on with it.

We did not do a cost-benefit analysis when we put in railways in Australia, we did not do a cost-benefit analysis of all the roads around the country, we certainly did not do one when the copper went into the ground, we did not do it when we got the post office service going and we did not do it when the telegraph wire was run up the middle of the country. Those were the technologies of the time; this is the technology that we need now. This is the technology which will drive Australia forward and allow us to be competitive in the world, which we have not been up to now. We have been left behind. Those on the other side had 12 years to do this when they were in government. They used the argument, ‘Competition’s going to do it,’ but we just kept copper and bits of other stuff. Other people were going to make money out of pay TV. Basically that was the argument they made.

In my electorate, people are very angry about having to use a dial-up service, which drops out frequently. There does not seem to be any understanding on the other side of dial-up or the number of people who have contacted members about it. Ever since I have been a member of the House, for 17 or 18 years, people have been really angry about it. With pair gain they have certainly gained, by taking a bit of copper off somebody.

Some of the regional towns in my electorate, especially the outlying areas, have real problems keeping up. Many people who communicate and work at home have come to my region, the great electorate of Lyons, and wanted to live in its great valleys. But, since they have not been able to connect to the rest of the world, we have lost them. They are people who could make a very good contribution to the electorate through employing people and playing a role in the local community. Losing those people has been one of the sad consequences of not having fast broadband—let alone the constituents that do live in my electorate not having the opportunity to access fast broadband.

With a broadband connection, we could have e-health in my small towns. A 90-year-old could go to the local health clinic, put a wire or something on her chest and plug it into a socket, and her vital health information would go to a nurse. That nurse could look at that information and say, ‘You’re okay today; I’ll see you tomorrow.’ E-health saves money and improves delivery of health services. There are many positive things that could come out of this network. One school told me that it takes them five hours to download a documentary—five hours! With a broadband connection, it would happen with a click of the finger. They could talk to schoolchildren in other parts of the world. They would have the free flow of information which we all talk about. Small businesses are another group who would benefit from having a fast broadband connection.

I cannot believe that the National Party, of all parties, are opposed to this. They cannot see the pluses of this for regional Australia—a failure again by the National Party to get a grip on, or have an understanding of, broadband. Maybe they are ignorant. I certainly do not support this legislation. I believe that we have to make this happen. We have to get on with it and deliver the National Broadband Network. We are behind the eight ball; we need to be in front of it.