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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5102


Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (16:52): In rising to speak on this very worthy motion, I want to note that the member for Greenway—the only thing that is failing in relation to this is the NBN rollout. The member for Greenway is disingenuous to say that our policy is failing when the targets for the NBN rollout have been downgraded for a third time by the government. Can the member for Greenway answer this question: now, with the third downgrading, it will take 109 years for the full rollout of the NBN to happen, so why has she neglected to mention it? It is 109 years on the current targets, but the member for Greenway comes in here and says that the revised targets are being met. After three downgrades—three downgrades, member for Greenway! 'We didn't meet the first target, so we'll downgrade them. We didn't meet the second target, so we'll downgrade them. We didn't meet the third target, so they'll be downgraded.' That is straight out of the New South Wales Labor play book. 'The trains aren't running on time? Our solution is let's change the timetables. The trains still don't run on time? Well now operating running is going to be 20 minutes instead of five minutes either way.' That is straight out of the New South Wales Labor play book, and nobody in this country is going to fall for it.

Today, on a much more serious issue raised in this matter of public importance by the member for Wentworth, I will talk in relation to the botching of the NBN rollout in suburbs around our country. This is a serious issue. I do think it is disingenuous of the member for Lyne to get up here and say this chamber has to ensure that pits are managed safely. That is the problem about this approach to government by the government supported by the member for Lyne: it thinks it is expert in telecommunications. We have so many frustrated telecommunications executives standing in this chamber, but perhaps there is really only one—that is, the member for Bradfield—I would say to you, Member for Lyne. The reality is we do not know how to roll out these things properly; they have to be done by the experts, the telecommunications companies.

When government gets involved, when government tries to rush these things for a political agenda, this is the thing that happens. If you do not do a cost-benefit analysis for a major project like an NBN, and if you do not support us in moving for a cost-benefit analysis, Member for Lyne, you will find that these are the consequences: things are rushed; things get missed. A cost-benefit analysis was not conducted in relation to the biggest piece of infrastructure expenditure in this country's history. No cost-benefit analysis. Are we then surprised that nobody thought, 'What is the cost of ameliorating asbestos in pits?' That would have been one of the considerations of a cost-benefit analysis in relation to the NBN, consideration could have been given. That is the problem with government taking over this style of project and that is the problem with what is happening today.

With the time I have remaining I particularly want to turn to the experience in Western Sydney. This is where this problem with asbestos first got raised. In the rushed pre-election broadband rollout, we have seen a potentially risky situation emerge in the seat of Lindsay. I am surprised that the member for Lindsay has not chosen to speak on this matter of public importance given that in his electorate today we have his residents in the Penrith City Star raising the concerns of asbestos in their front yards and asbestos in their houses. It might have been prudent of him to come in here and speak on this matter of public importance today given it started in his electorate.

The matter was raised, as we saw, by many of his constituents, who found and had to bring it up themselves that asbestos had been leaked into their front yards, where their children play. We have seen many concerns raised by the Penrith City Council and by the local Liberal representative there, Fiona Scott, who is our Liberal candidate, who has had to take on the member for Lindsay in relation to this because he will not answer the questions, just as the government will not answer the questions, in relation to the NBN rollout.

The questions are real. When you see Mr O'Farrell from Lindsay raise the concern that his wife and two daughters, aged six and nine weeks, have been moved to a nearby hotel in Penrith while authorities decide what to do with the asbestos filled pits, everybody in this chamber ought to be concerned. It is not conflated, as the member for Throsby said, to raise that people in ordinary situations in Lindsay now are finding themselves with pits in their streets with asbestos signs around them. Why is that the case? Is that an accident? Is that something that has just occurred out of nothing? Of course it is not.

This is unseemly haste that we have seen in major infrastructure projects, because they are politically driven. Let us not run away from that. The pink batts program was politically driven. It was politically driven to attempt, as some sort of conflated economic policy, to change the global financial crisis, to say, 'If we can stimulate the insulation industry, we can change the climate and we can produce better economic results.' This is just nonsense. What we saw there, in that mad rush to rush pink batts into people's roofs, was the industry collapse. We saw many good providers collapse, we saw the unreliable providers receive money and benefit, and we saw, sadly, many people's houses burn and people lose their lives from a mad political rush.

And now here we are again: before an election, in a mad rush to meet unreasonable targets. The government's own targets for the rollout of the NBN have been revised downwards three times, showing everybody in this nation that the original targets were unreasonable, could never have been met. Trying to provide fibre to every single premise in this country on the timetable the government said was untenable by any of the experts' predictions, any of the experts in this field. It was never going to be possible and it was never going to be affordable, which is why our own costings show that not only will this cost $40 billion—the biggest expenditure at $40 billion—but this could also cost up to $90 billion to run this into everybody's houses. That is because most of the cost comes from the final end production, what we are seeing now. The issue with the pits, the issue with the infrastructure. And if you rush it—if you do not do a cost-benefit analysis; if you do politically driven infrastructure rather than properly funded infrastructure and properly planned infrastructure—you get a bad outcome, and that is why we should not have had government driving this.

The reality is in most of our metropolitan cities people get the internet speeds they need and they get good telecommunications provision in our country. It is the third most profitable sector in the country, telecommunications; it has a well-established foundation in this country. And you could argue for government to get involved to provide better broadband services to those areas that cannot afford it or that cannot receive it because of the nature of our geography, but that is not what the government is doing. That is not what the member for Lyne is supporting them to do. The rollout just happens to be in Western Sydney. You can draw a map of key Liberal electorates, like my electorate, and there is no NBN rollout in my electorate for another four years. But across the road in Greenway, a one per cent margin seat, they are rolling out NBN straight away. You can go to Liberal electorates across this country and you will find no NBN rollout for years to come. Yet if you go to a marginal seat you can bet your bottom dollar there will be an NBN rollout going through it right now.

So who is to blame in Lindsay when you have an unseemly rollout there and you have got this situation? These questions are very pertinent and they ought to be asked of this government, because it is not the expertise of this government to run a telecommunications company. I note the member for Throsby said, 'We helped Bernie Banton in his situation.' Bernie Banton happened to be one of my constituents when I came to this place and his untimely demise was very unfortunate. The efforts of unions in fighting for his case are where unions are at their best. It is where they do the right thing for those kinds of workers who have been in this situation against a company and receive justice. But that does not qualify the member for Throsby to then go on and talk about his expertise in the telecommunications field. Standing up for an injured worker in a compensation claim against a company does not give him any special knowledge of how the telecommunications sector works. The two do not translate. His argument is false. He knows as little about telecommunications as I do and yet he is attempting to tell us how to run a telecommunications company in this country. Can you see why we are going wrong in this place?

There is no doubt that this rollout is being mismanaged by this government. They have form in mismanaging major projects. They do not do government well, and we know it—everybody in this chamber knows it. Not only is government being badly done but this infrastructure rollout is being mismanaged. It is being mismanaged because of unrealistic expectations, no proper planning and no cost-benefit analysis. It is being mismanaged because of the political drive from the government to achieve political objectives—not telecommunications objectives, not objectives for ordinary Australians, but to meet an unrealistic set of political objectives of the government. So when they say, 'Don't politicise this,' well, when I look at the map of Western Sydney and I look at Liberal seats and marginal seats and I see the NBN rolling out in those marginal seats, who has politicised this debate? Who has already sought to put it where they need it the most rather than look at the real telecommunications needs of this country?

There is a better way to do government and that is to have an adult government—to have a measured government, a government which does a cost-benefit analysis for the biggest infrastructure project in Australian history, a government which has former telecommunications executives in its ranks and people of stature like the shadow minister for communications and the member for Bradfield. These are people who understand that government cannot solve all our problems all at once but can fix those areas of need which need it the most. That is the policy of the coalition—to rein in NBN Co. to something that can be managed, can be delivered, is affordable and is reasonable.