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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 2429

Mr MITCHELL (8:56 PM) —The issue of the National Broadband Network is about our future. It is about understanding the great opportunities and the benefits for all areas of the economy as well as for personal and social development. The debate on the NBN and the National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010 is about a contrast of thinking. As I said in my speech on the address-in-reply, mankind is divided between the party of conservatism and the party of innovation and between the past and the future. The NBN is further evidence of this. It is a contrast between believing that a high speed broadband network is crucial for a prosperous future, as the Labor Party does, or that communicating using two Milo tins joined by a piece of string is good enough, which is what the opposition believes.

The German government, led by the conservative CDU Party of Chancellor Angela Merkel—the sister party to the opposition—stated last year that high-speed broadband networks that enabled the rapid exchange of information and knowledge are crucial for economic growth. Angela Merkel was right. The coalition, in opposing the NBN, are plainly wrong. They claim they want transparency and scrutiny, but at every step they have blocked and delayed reforms that will benefit all Australians.

Let us recognise the opposition’s stunts for what they really are: they are causing delay for millions of Australians in getting a fairer deal on broadband and telecommunications services. During election doorknocking in South Morang in my electorate, almost every single person I spoke to raised with me the issues they were having getting access to fast, reliable high-speed broadband. I recall Mr Joe Cilmi, a resident of South Morang. He runs a small business at home dealing with education. Mr Cilmi faces exorbitant prices using a substandard wireless connection while trying to run his business and feed his family. The NBN rollout to South Morang is a huge win for this growing suburb. It will also open up the competitive landscape to retailer service providers that have not been able to extend their broadband services to our area. Let us remember that South Morang is only 26 kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD.

Many sectors of the community, including local government, are already making decisions based on NBN’s future. In my own electorate, the City of Whittlesea is using its planning powers to encourage developers and telecommunication carriers to build a fibre-optic network in new estates. The council should be commended for its progressive thinking and planning, because it just does not make sense to build new homes that use all the latest approaches to save energy, technology and water and not be fibre-optic ready.

There are so many other important benefits to the NBN program. For example, it will allow better emergency service and disaster relief systems to be developed and put in place. In my bushfire-prone electorate, this may help save lives if disaster strikes. The government must be commended for its forward-thinking innovation and its understanding of how high speed broadband will be crucial for social and community development in rural and remote Australia as well as for our long-term economic thinking. I stand proud in support of the NBN. I note it is of great benefit to the people of McEwen and other regional Australians across the country.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Vamvakinou)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.