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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 2405


Mr STEPHEN JONES (7:04 PM) —When I last spoke on a motion moved by the member for Wentworth on a similar matter, I think I said that any time somebody puts a proposal together which has the words ‘costs’, ‘benefits’ and ‘analysis’ in the one sentence, it has a seductive sheen of credibility, but when you peel back the proposal you realise that the National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010, like the motion that preceded it, is a sham. We know it is a sham, because the proponents are deaf, dumb and blind when it comes to both the benefits and any analysis of our proposal to build a national broadband network.

This private member’s bill on the financial transparency of the NBN has no credibility because the member for Wentworth’s mission, like the mission of his leader, is to wreck and demolish the National Broadband Network. If he cannot wreck it outright, then his only other option is to wreck it by delaying it and wreck it through scare tactics. We know it is a sham, because it comes from the same party who roundly criticised the government throughout the course of the last election for not getting out there and rolling the broadband network out quickly enough. They criticised us in Tasmania. They criticised it in the electorate adjoining my own. In fact, I remember full well the member for Gilmore complaining that the government had not rolled the network out speedily enough so that people could access it. The very same member has come to this place and said, ‘Hold on, we should delay things and go through a cost-benefit analysis.’ What the member for Wentworth does not accept is that you cannot simply transfer the principles that apply to private sector investment practice to the role of the Australian government. That does not mean that the analogies do not sometimes apply, but where they do not apply is when you have an instance of market failure.

The only reason that the government has had to come forward with its nation-building project, the National Broadband Network, is that, after 19 failed broadband plans and about 20 years of deregulation in the telecommunications industry, we have had a huge and tragic instance of market failure. Throughout that time, Australians have patiently endured the market domination of Telstra, which did not deliver real competition to telecommunications. Now we have a plan that is financially viable and will deliver real competition in the telecommunications industry, real competition for consumers, and, sadly, this success is what the coalition and members opposite fear most. They fear the success of the National Broadband Network. They do not want it to be rolled out, they do not want it to be rolled out on time, they do not want it to succeed, they do not want it to work and they do not want consumers to have the benefits that it would deliver to them. The coalition knows that, if the NBN is a success, they will have zero credibility left when it comes to the economy and the critical infrastructure that is needed to ensure that we have a modern economy fit for the 21st century.

The NBN is critical infrastructure. It will connect our rural and regional centres back to our main cities and to the markets of the world, with world-class broadband services. The costs of this project have been public for quite some time. They have been debated through two elections. There is no need for further sunshine or transparency on the costs, because we have been quite up-front about the costs of this project. When it comes to the benefits, we know that Infrastructure Australia has said that the benefits of this project are hard to overestimate. We know that business supports it, because business can see that this is critical infrastructure for the future of our nation. We know that voters, in no fewer than two elections, have voted with their feet in support of the National Broadband Network. We know that consumers are lining up to gain access to the network. So the message quite simply to those opposite—to the member for Wentworth, who has been given the impossible task of defending this bill—is: get out of the way and let progress have its way.