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Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Page: 8131

Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (17:56): I rise to make a few comments on the third report of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network, which deals with the time from 1 July 2011 to March 2012. Obviously, the National Broadband Network is very important for the national interest. It is great to hear from the member for McEwen about the actual rollout and about the 3.5 million homes that are about to be connected or are in the process of being connected and which have already had the nature strips in front of their homes dug up. Obviously, that is an inconvenience, but when you are talking about the productivity agenda of the nation and the education agenda of the nation, it is a small sacrifice for the good of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Sadly, as all of those in an economic or shadow economic portfolio would know, productivity in Australia has been flatlining for approximately 10 years. Productivity is the real indicator—the most significant indicator—of whether the economic engine is finely tuned. How do we improve our productivity? Not by lowering wages. The reality is that we will never compete with India, China or Indonesia when it comes to wages. That is not the way to compete in terms of the future of the nation. The way to compete is by doing things smarter and by delivering services more cheaply and more efficiently. How do you do that? Obviously, by investing in education. We on this side can tick that box—we have doubled the education budget. The last budget was a tough budget, but we have kept the investment in higher learning. Those opposite were obsessed with making sure that everyone had a flag and/or a flagpole. That is important; our national symbols are important—I do not take that away—but I will stack our 3,000 libraries up against their 3,000 flagpoles any day. So we can proudly tick the education box.

What else can you do? You have to be able to invest in doing things smarter—invest in the health agenda and the education agenda. It is not enough to build new classrooms; you have to give people the opportunity to learn and you have to deliver services in a new way. That is how we are going to improve productivity in this nation. The NBN is an important part of this. We have heard the Leader of the Opposition say, 'Well, I'm not really very technologically savvy,' in fact, I think he said that he could not even send emails. Well, the reality is that the NBN is so much more than that. It is not just about sending emails. It is about letting businesses in the remote parts of Blair compete with businesses in the southern parts of the United States or the southern parts of China. It will let Australian businesses compete on the world stage in the niche markets with the products that we do so well, particularly when it comes to setting up a new Switzerland in the south in terms of managing funds. That is a great way by which we can compete, and the NBN is a part of that. I look forward to the next report from the NBN committee and the great news that they are delivering for Australia.

Debate adjourned.