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Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Page: 3308

Ms SUDMALIS (Gilmore) (10:18): Last Friday I had the great privilege to meet Merryn Joske and also to meet up with a Rotarian mate, Ken Wheatland. Merryn is blind in one eye and lacks full vision in the other eye. She had her companion assistance dog, Toby, with her. You may wonder why I was so pleased to meet up with both of these people, particularly when I tell you that this meeting took place in relation to the NBN. Over the last 12 months I have been tempted to rename the National Broadband Network the 'national broadband nightmare'. Gilmore has an almost unique internet broadband profile, with state-of-the-art fibre connections happening or not in Kiama but not actually being welcomed by all the residents because all new technologies have teething problems—and, believe me, I am pretty sure this is effectively the test site for NBN connection strategies. Yet in other parts of Gilmore we have inadequate ADSL, a lack of 4G capacity for wireless connection—or non-connection, in reality—and a mishmash of fibre pathways with a disconnect between the NBN and other service providers.

Imagine if you will my absolute delight when Minister Turnbull came to Kiama just over one week after my local forums had been held that highlighted the problems of the 'switch to fibre' action that was being created. This NBN event was to launch the NBN Register. For months residents in Kiama have been concerned that their medical alarms, MedicAlerts and even back-to-base security connections would disappear when the copper system was disconnected. I am proud to be associated with the announcement made by the Minister for Communications and I thank him for making Kiama the launch location.

Merryn Joske has offered to be my ambassador to assist other local residents when they express their concerns relating to the medical alarms. Merryn is comfortable and secure now in the knowledge that her call and a simple process resolved the disconnection issue. In addition, Kenn Wheathand has been a trial user of the new NBN telehealth system with Kathy McKeown as his consulting telenurse. This is an exciting process and adds dimension to the potential of the NBN. It was reassuring to hear how Kenn was able to monitor his own health for diabetes and heart health without having to leave his own home. It was news that was well received by people attending the launch. A small group of seniors had come to claim a library for a virtual art gallery tour after the launch—yet another NBN application that is welcomed by the community.

As a follow-up to the launch of the great initiative of the medical alarm register, I have consulted further with the NBN chief communications officer and staff about extending the concept to ensure that banks' and medical insurance companies' phone-linked services are also treated in the same way. I have been contacted by health professionals and small businesses, all telling me that, at the moment, the NBN system is totally incompatible with these types of services.

I welcome the positive response and commitment to follow up on these additional teething problems. I thank Merryn for her promise of assistance. I thank Kenn for sharing his experiences with the new technology.