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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 2427

Ms SMYTH (8:46 PM) —I stand to speak against the National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010, presented by the member for Wentworth. I am pleased to be able to speak in any debate on the National Broadband Network but it is terribly disappointing to be here this evening speaking on a bill which is quite clearly designed to delay the rollout of the NBN and to delay the consequent benefits that will come with an NBN being rolled out into our community. It is once again a delaying and obfuscatory tactic. It is quite at odds with the expectations of ordinary Australians, and certainly Australians with whom I have spoken in my electorate, both during the federal election campaign and since then, who are increasingly frustrated that the NBN will not be progressing as quickly as they had hoped, assuming that the opposition’s tactics displayed this evening remain.

During the election campaign La Trobe residents raised with me reliable, affordable internet access as being a core issue in our area. Those residents are very much aware of the significance of the NBN, in terms of both their children’s educational opportunities and the possibilities for business through efficiency and employment opportunities. Increasingly, they are becoming aware of the prospects for better healthcare delivery and the prospects for saving time, energy and considerable resources in what might otherwise be fairly lengthy travel to their employment or their businesses.

The NBN will allow La Trobe businesses to service effectively their local, interstate and international clients. Residents, and importantly local government representatives in my electorate, are very keenly aware of the need to try to minimise travel time and to minimise traffic congestion each day on major arterials. The NBN would enable more of those residents to tele-work from home and would enable improved workplace flexibility. It is also likely to mean that some of those living in more remote parts of La Trobe—bearing in mind that my electorate spans much of the eastern and south-eastern fringe of Melbourne—will be able to seek job opportunities and stay in their local communities without the need for extensive travel. I am thinking particularly of areas in my electorate such as Upper Beaconsfield, Cockatoo, Emerald, Menzies Creek, Officer and Pakenham on the outer reaches of my electorate who stand to benefit from the availability of optic fibre and substantially faster internet speeds. The frustration of people in those particular suburbs is raised with me quite regularly in relation to the existing standard of their internet services. It is particularly significant that in La Trobe the NBN could enable health services to provide residents in remote locations with specialist advice without those residents needing to travel long distances. I am particularly thinking of elderly residents and those who are transport limited on the outer fringes of my electorate.

The other thing that I know local residents in my electorate are keenly aware of is the prospect of jobs associated with the rollout of the NBN. We have had the Building the Education Revolution once again maligned in the debate this evening in comments from the other side—and I am sure that those who have commented negatively on the Building the Education Revolution also malign the jobs that were created by it. Similarly, in relation to the NBN, we know that its construction is expected to support on average 25,000 jobs each year over the life of the project. Of course, the opposition have not really been effective advocates for job opportunities in my electorate and in other electorates around the country. They still cannot appreciate the value of our nation-building stimulus package in creating and supporting local jobs at a time of financial crisis, so I suppose I should not anticipate that they are going to change their tack this evening. They might be more inclined to at least acknowledge the views of the Australian Local Government Association, which estimated in 2008 that around $3.2 billion and 33,000 jobs had been lost to Australian businesses during a 12-month period due to inadequate broadband infrastructure—but, then again, perhaps even that will not convince them. As so many of us have regularly observed, the opposition are simply intent on wrecking and delaying meaningful reform—and this is yet another example of that.