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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 2422

Mr SYMON (8:26 PM) —I speak against the National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010 and like the member for Moreton, who has already spoken in this debate, this is the first bill I have ever spoken against in this House. This private member’s bill presented by the member for Wentworth is nothing more than a politically motivated attempt to undermine the quantum leap in Australia’s communication network that is the National Broadband Network. This private member’s bill seeks the publication of a 10-year business case for the NBN and referral of the NBN project to the Productivity Commission for a cost-benefit analysis. The NBN has a clear plan to deliver broadband to 93 per cent of homes through fibre and seven per cent through other methods such as satellite.

A business case for the rollout of the NBN has already been made and verified. McKinsey-KPMG were employed to conduct a thorough, independent cost-benefit analysis of the NBN. As the member for Flinders very recently said in this place, ‘Their work is good work’. The $25 million report, the National Broadband Network implementation study, reached its conclusion that the National Broadband Network can be delivered within the cost envelope proposed by the government. The report covers 11 chapters, looking into such issues as technology, the rollout time lines, competition, markets and funding. McKinsey-KPMG consulted with a range of experts and held extensive industry and stakeholder consultation to conduct this comprehensive analysis.

Why do we need another cost-benefit analysis? The NBN has delivered extensive plans and will continue to update the community on the plans for the rollout of the NBN. NBN Co. is a Commonwealth company and bears a statutory requirement to submit financial reports, directors reports and auditors reports on its operations. NBN Co. is obliged to prepare a corporate plan, at least annually, for the responsible minister and that plan must cover a minimum period of three years. Matters covered by the plan include assumptions about the business environment in which it operates, its investment and financing, strategies for managing financial risk, financial targets and projections from the company. The existing obligations on NBN Co. in terms of developing plans and reporting progress are extensive, and the bill presented by the member for Wentworth will only duplicate the extensive work completed and the future obligations on the NBN.

The member for Wentworth has indicated he will present a further private member’s bill to create a joint select committee drawn from both houses to oversee the rollout of the NBN. This will effectively duplicate the work already undertaken by the Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network. It was back on 25 June 2008 that the Senate established the Select Committee on the National Broadband Network. This select committee has provided four interim reports to the Senate: on 2 December 2008, 12 May 2009, 26 November 2009 and 18 May 2010. Each report involved extensive consultation with stakeholders and the community.

So what is it that the member for Wentworth is trying to delay? The NBN, as I have said, will connect 93 per cent of all Australian premises with fibre-based services, with another seven per cent connected with next generation wireless and satellite technologies with speeds of up to 100 megabits per second. Recent tests held between April and September 2010 show the average home broadband connection in Australia clocked a speed of up to 4.2 megabits per second. For many households though, especially in the outer suburbs, it is way below this figure, very much dependent on how far away you are from your local exchange.

The NBN speed over fibre will be almost 20 times the current speed. The implications of that for home, business and study needs are quite remarkable. Recently there has been a lot of talk of economic reform. The NBN will deliver the massive boost that we need now and in the future to enable small-scale businesses to compete nationally and internationally. This private member’s bill, moved by the member for Wentworth, again highlights a short-sighted obsession with attacking the valuable economic reforms that the Labor government is delivering. The Liberal Party’s opposition to the NBN flies in the face of widespread support for this quantum leap in Australia’s communications network, and I urge the House to reject this private member’s bill.