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Tuesday, 1 March 2011
Page: 1887

Mr CHEESEMAN (6:17 PM) —I rise today to speak on the National Broadband Network Companies Bill 2010 and the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures—Access Arrangements) Bill 2010. The National Broadband Network Companies Bill is about telecommunications, but it is also important to note that it is about the future of our health system, our education system, our commerce system and, importantly, our economy. This bill is about the long-overdue change that creates a telecommunications market that has integrity. As usual, it takes a Labor government to achieve this.

The bill consolidates the separation of the wholesale and retail parts of the telecommunications markets. It is also the mark of one of the most important economic reforms that the Australian government is undertaking. It is perhaps the most important thing we can do to increase the productivity of businesses in this country and particularly in areas like Corangamite. It will lead to a revolution in the use of household technology and it will open up new horizons for household entertainment. The Australian government’s national broadband strategy, which this bill addresses, will also lead to a revolution in the delivery of health services. Similarly, the NBN will lead to a revolution in educational services delivery.

This legislation goes to four things. The primary bill, the National Broadband Network Companies Bill 2010, limits and focuses NBN Co. on wholesale-only telecommunications activities, consistent with its mandate as established by this government. It also sets out the Commonwealth ownership arrangements and provides for the eventual sale of the Commonwealth’s stake in NBN Co., subject to parliament’s approval. The accompanying bill, the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures—Access Arrangements) Bill 2010, establishes new access, non-discrimination and transparency obligations for NBN Co., and it provides a level regulatory playing field for superfast broadband infrastructure.

It surprises no-one that the Leader of the Opposition continues to oppose the deployment of the NBN network. He is opposing this great economic reform that the Gillard government is delivering. Mr Abbott is opposing the health service delivery revolution that will take place as a consequence of the deployment of the NBN network across this country. He is opposing the billions of dollars that will open up our economy and open up our health system. He is opposing the speedier, more timely delivery of health services to regional and rural Australians, and in particular to remote Indigenous communities. Mr Abbott is opposing the educational services delivery revolution that the NBN can bring. He is opposing the expansion of educational services to regional and remote communities. He is opposing the billions of dollars this will ultimately save the Australian government in educational services delivery. For years people who have a passion for this policy area have been dreaming of the day on which the NBN would be deployed, the day the retail arm would separate from the wholesale arm, and the day there were clear transparency obligations in how wholesale telecommunications business operate.

The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures—Access Arrangements) Bill 2010 amends the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. This bill introduces open access, transparency and non-discriminatory measures for NBN corporations under clear oversight by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. It also requires owners of superfast networks that are rolled out, upgraded or altered after the introduction of this bill to parliament to supply a wholesale layer 2 bitstream service on open and equivalent terms. The NBN access bill also simplifies the making of industry codes and standards for fibre infrastructure and services so new fibre-to-the-premises networks are NBN consistent.

I think this is great legislation. We have listened for a long time to what industry are saying. We have listened to what consumers want. We made changes in the exposure bill, taking on board the suggestions of industry, such as the scope for the minister to allow NBN Co. to directly supply specific end users. We have listened to industry about matters such as that.

I just want to make the point that this important bill, covering these parts, will cause significant, economy-wide opening up of my region. My region—the City of Greater Geelong and the G21 region, as it is sometimes known—has been working very closely with my office to ensure that it can take full advantage of deployment of the NBN. We have in my region some 25,000 small businesses, with the lion’s share of those businesses in my seat of Corangamite. Many of those small businesses are tourism operators, and of course they rely upon the internet to market and sell their businesses on the world stage. There is no doubt that the NBN will assist those businesses to access the world stage, and I certainly believe the National Broadband Network will dramatically increase productivity coming out of my region as a consequence. We also have within my region many design companies, architects, tradespeople and building companies who need to send very large files to their customers, and the current network is inadequate for them to be able to do that.

We also have very large areas within my electorate where year 12 kids cannot actually email files from their school to their home or from their home to their school because of the inadequate telecommunications infrastructure that is in place. The NBN will very much assist those students in being able to undertake those very important activities, and I certainly believe that, as a consequence of the deployment of the NBN, educational opportunities will open up, enabling those students to achieve the very best of marks.

Also within my electorate we have Deakin University. Deakin is a critical institution for our region. It is one of the largest employers within the region and certainly is the largest employer within my seat. Deakin also has campuses on the Geelong waterfront—in the federal seat of Corio—in Warrnambool and in Melbourne. Deakin, as I said earlier, is the largest employer within my seat, and it has thousands of students studying there; it is providing that educational opportunity. Deakin University is also driving economic and business reform across our region, producing new industries and new jobs. The NBN again will play a vital role in enabling Deakin University to assist our economy in innovation, which is very important.

Deakin University is training many GPs, nurses and allied health professionals, who will service our region into the future. Of course, we know that there is going to be a revolution taking place in the health profession over the coming years, and I believe that internet based technology will play a very important role in enabling those doctors, nurses, surgeons and the like to communicate with a much wider audience than they have been able to in the past. I certainly believe the National Broadband Network will play a very significant role in that. This is a very large and important investment, and I think it will be the foundation for productivity growth going forward.

Of course, with all of these very tough and challenging reforms, Tony Abbott has consistent form on this. He continues to oppose everything that this government does in terms of opening up our economy and providing opportunities for this nation going forward. The NBN is critical to my region, it is critical to the nation and, as a consequence, I implore both sides of the political divide to support this legislation to enable the government to deploy the National Broadband Network as quickly as we can and particularly to assist regional Australia to get a leg up and get on a level playing field with our metropolitan cousins.