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Thursday, 6 March 2014
Page: 1964

Mr RANDALL (Canning) (10:37): I am pleased this morning to give the chamber an update on the NBN rollout in the electorate of Canning, which I represent. The area of Mandurah was earmarked to be one of the first in Western Australia to get the NBN—along with Victoria Park in the electorate of Swan and Geraldton in the electorate of Durack.

The people of Mandurah were very excited about this. But that excitement waned when the scheduled date for connection came and went. In fact there were a whole lot of false starts and false dates. Initially, the Mandurah rollout was delayed for around six months because the former Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government could not get contracts into place effectively in Western Australia. We have seen the mess they made with the company they employed, Syntheo.

NBN work in Mandurah finally commenced in 2011 with its much vaunted fibre to the premises. NBN Co told everyone it would be around 12 months before they could connect. During the election campaign, I was doorknocking around those areas of Mandurah and people were saying, 'The cabling has just gone past my house, but I can't connect.' I vividly recall going down Tuckey Street, near the telephone exchange in Mandurah, and seeing the earthworks and fibre running down the street—but people were still telling me that they could not connect. It was quite bizarre. Finally, two years after the commencement of the works, people were able to start connecting around December 2013—after the federal election, surprisingly. At the end of January, building had commenced at around 4,500 properties and 6,700 premises had been passed with fibre, yet only 88 services had been activated, with approximately 200 orders pending for NBN fibre—out of all the thousands of properties I just mentioned. That is the take-up rate. I am told that this take-up rate in the Mandurah area has been slightly slower than that anywhere else, particularly in the eastern states. It is not surprising given the misinformation that plagued the NBN rollout and its shambolic nature in my electorate under the former Labor government.

There were many false rumours perpetrated by Labor about the NBN rollout. They said under the coalition's broadband policy it would cost $5,000 to connect. We know that is not true. They said under Labor's NBN model, it would be free. I recall seeing pamphlets that went in people's letterboxes and under their doors in the area where they were laying fibre saying there would be free connection. We know that was an absolute falsehood. We know that if you are going to connect you have to pay fees. There is nothing free in this world. I fully support delivering better telecommunications to my electorate of Canning. I was never against the idea that the NBN could do this. It was just that aspects of Labor's legislation and poor administration of the rollout were concerning.

The government is now working hard—and thank goodness we have a telecommunications minister with credibility in this area in Malcolm Turnbull—to clean up the mess and get on with providing faster broadband sooner and more affordably for those people who wish to take it up. Interestingly, in some of these areas people already had reasonable broadband, and yet there were areas in the electorate that had none. Labor were providing another service down streets where there was already sufficient broadband.

We will communicate clearly and honestly with the people about the progress of the NBN. It was NBN Co that advised the government the NBN should be completed using a mixture of technologies. From what I understand, the staff at NBN Co just want to get on with the job, rather than being hamstrung by these delays. While it is possible we may see more fibre rolled out in the areas adjacent to the current Mandurah fibre footprint—and perhaps see the fibre rollout actually happen in Pinjarra town centre, which was planned previously but never happened—we will also see a number of areas benefit quickly through the completion of the NBN wireless network. Remember how they were going to be a one-trick pony with just fibre to the home? Now they are talking about wireless, which is quite sensible because there should be a mixture of those technologies.

In the short period of time that I have left, I will say that finally an NBN Co representative came to see me the other day to tell me where the towers may be and about the co-location of facilities. It was refreshing because for the last three years we could not get anyone from NBN Co to talk to us. The key point was that they were told they were not allowed to talk to coalition members of the opposition. No wonder we could not get any information.