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Thursday, 14 March 2013
Page: 2248


Mr MITCHELL (McEwen) (11:32): It is often said that politics is theatre for ugly people. We just had a Logie performance there by the member for Riverina. I will start by reminding the member for Riverina—

Mr McCormack interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): Order! The member for Riverina may wish to ask for a point of order and then may wish to get the call from the chair. Does the member for Riverina have a point of order?

Mr McCormack: No.

Mr MITCHELL: We are talking about an audit committee report on the NBN. The member is not only not on the committee, but also he fails to understand that it is talking about a national broadband network, not mobile phone black spots. I do understand the member for Riverina's point on mobile phone black spots because they were the ones who sold Telstra and removed it from being a public company into private hands where it relies on profit not community service. They are the ones who sold out the bush totally when they were the lapdogs to the Liberals in the Howard government and left most parts of regional Australia failing in mobile phone coverage. They also had 18 failed plans on broadband. Every single one they did failed. As he runs out of the chamber, I will give him a copy of this so that I can remind him it was his party that sold Telstra and sold out country Australia. We are falling behind the rest of the developed world in our internet connections, speeds and availability.

Those opposite sit there and try to run this failed little argument that it is all about games. It just shows their ignorance and why their leader has appointed the member for Wentworth to 'demolish' the NBN. They do not want it. In the worst-case scenario, if they do get into government it will mean that regional Australia and the developing outer suburbs of capital cities, the expanding ones in the newer states, will not have quality 21st-century broadband speeds. They will not have access to the new and improved medical treatments that are available only through using high-speed broadband. They want to keep country Australia and our outer suburbs back in the Dark Ages, using copper which has been around for 100 years. But copper cannot compete with modern-day technologies that are available using optic fibre. Nothing is as quick as optic fibre. That is why it is important to have these things.

You can see that through instant things like breast screening and the like, that can be done across country areas. People can have live-feed straight back to a major hospital and get results instantly. You see that through the educational opportunities where people in rural and remote areas have the opportunity to learn close to home without having to leave their communities and head to the major cities. You see that with business opportunities where people can work from home, increasing productivity and removing the pressures on our clogged roads—and, Madam Deputy Speaker Vamvakinou, you being from Victoria would know just how bad the road system is now that the new Victorian government under its second Premier, the unelected Premier, has gone to the northern suburbs and said that there will be no upgrades until 2046. At the same time they are opening 120,000 blocks of land just north of your electorate in my area, and they are not going to build any road infrastructure.

It has taken this government to sit down and bite the bullet and say that we need this broadband. It is an essential service in today's modern society. It is not a luxury for the rich and for those who live in Darling Harbour and places like that. It is something that everyone needs right across the country.

I have been able to travel overseas and have a look at opportunities where fibre-optic cable is used and where you see the different resources available for rural and remote communities. For example, I was in Ottawa in Canada where they were teaching traditional dance and traditional methods to their First Nation peoples. Some of these people were 10,000 kilometres away, but they were doing it live using the optic-fibre broadband and they were able to provide these educational opportunities to rural and remote communities from Ottawa with specialists to make sure that those traditions continued. That is vitally important for the people of the First Nations particularly in Canada, but it can also be used over here. That sort of technology can be transferred here for us to use.

We have seen the opportunities with training for medical students, where they can have a classroom that is borderless. It does not matter where you are, if you have got access to high-speed broadband you can come together and learn these vital skills that are needed to help people particularly in country areas. That is why the NBN is such an important piece of national infrastructure. It has often been quoted that it is the 'railways of the 21st century', and it is. It is something that needs to be done and that is why Labor is getting on with the job of doing it. Being part of the committee—and I have the pleasure now of being the deputy chair of the committee—I believe that when you sit down and have a look at what is happening and where it is going, you can see that this is important.

It is pretty sad that we got such an appalling dissenting report based on partisan lines from the opposition who are continuing their role to destroy the NBN. Claims were made in a dissenting report that the NBN has 'failed to deliver on brownfield sites'. When NBN Co. uses their latest corporate plan, they round connections to the nearest thousand. They sit there and say, 'Okay, brownfield sites—we are going to do 29,000 connections.' That is a great target. They actually delivered 28,817. According to that lot opposite, that was a failure. It is ridiculous that they would say that, but in new sites where NBN had over what their original plan was, which was 10,000 and they got to 10,027, there was not a whisper out of those opposite to say, 'NBN are fantastic; they have reached more connections than they intended to.'

This is a very complex piece of infrastructure that is being built, as I said, to help productivity, to help growth and to help ensure that, no matter where you live, you are going to have access to these things. In areas such as mine, when you get out to places like Riddells Creek, Romsey and Seymour, the biggest complaint I get about the NBN is that it is not getting there quick enough. People want the NBN and they want it now, because they know the opportunities are there in education, in health, in business or even their for own personal use. It is very important that we continue with this, and the threat of those opposite, to say they are going to demolish the NBN and get rid of it, is absolutely appalling.

In the dissenting report, the arrogance of the opposition in relation to this was quite clear. They went out and said to NBN Co., 'You should not be entering contracts that go past 14 September in case there is a change of government.' The absolute idiocy to say such a thing! Should we then go to the defence department and say, 'Look, you shouldn't enter contracts for Joint Strike Fighters and all these sorts of things up until 14 September because there could be a change of government'? It is absolutely silly to say those sorts of things. The arrogance of virtually going out to all the departments and saying, 'The world stops on 14 September,' is crazy. Yesterday, we saw them carrying on about needing to have business surety for the future. Yet at the same time—this is just further evidence that they will say one thing to one group and one thing to another group—they want all government contracts to stop on 14 September. So they want those who are building our frigates and the like to stop—just pull up stumps. Nothing could be more frightening to the Australian economy and to the business community than to have this lot out there running around saying that everything should stop on 14 September. It is absolutely ridiculous, and I think that will show.

Wherever you look on any industry website or any industry journal, the support for the NBN is there. The option that they are putting forward is fibre-to-the-node. We know it does not work. It is like building a highway and then having no exits, because that last bit between the node and your home makes the NBN what it is. Bringing fibre to the home is going to give us limitless opportunities. I admit that I am not the world's most technical person on this, and I know that, as we go forward, having the cable—the backbone—in place gives us the opportunities. As new technologies grow and develop, they will have access to that—access to things that we never thought of. You might not be old enough, Deputy Speaker, but I can remember a time before mobile phones—we never had them. Have a look now; 1991 was the first email. Look how far we have come in our lifetime to where we now have smartphones that do everything for us. You can even get connections now for people at home that can tell you when your fridge is empty. Your phone is able to do this, through apps and using a backbone—that is the important thing, because I know some members opposite will say that 4G will cover that, but their ignorance on the needs of having a backbone are ridiculous. I am sure that other members on this side will be speaking about this and go into more detail, because it is actually amazing ignorance of what is available.

This report has been tough to put through because, at every turn, NBN has faced a roadblock called the Liberal Party, that have come out and tried to stop everything NBN Co. does, to stop this from being built and to cut down the opportunities that are available for Australians when the rest of the country is crying out for high-speed broadband.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr MITCHELL: The member opposite again just showed his ignorance, and I think the key part of this is that not one member of the committee is speaking on this. They have gone and dragged out the leftover Luddites and said, 'Can you talk on it?', because they know, deep down, they are embarrassed about what they are putting forward. They know that members in their community are actually screaming out for it. That is why you get members opposite saying, 'We want NBN; we want it now.' Why don't you go out and tell your community, when they scream: 'Hey, I don't want you to have it. I want you to stay in the 20th century. I don't want you to get into the 21st century. I don't want your hospitals to have the latest medical opportunity. I don't want your kids to have the best educational opportunities. And I don't want you to have the best business opportunities at home. So stop screaming about it.' I dare you to go out and say that. Go and tell your community that you are actively pushing for them not to get access to the NBN. See how long you last then. This is such an important piece of infrastructure that it should have bipartisan support, but it does not, unfortunately, because, as I said at the start, the constant negativity of the opposition leader is intended to destroy the NBN and stop people having access to high-speed broadband no matter where they live across this country.

It is an important report. As I said, it is failed by a very appalling dissenting report that is just full of errors and absolute jokes. It is actually a bit of a giggle if you read it. On one hand they are saying NBN is not being transparent enough. Then on the other hand, two pages later, they are talking about how they do not like all the figures. You cannot have it both ways, but that is the way they do their politics. They will go and tell you one thing and they will someone else another, just like they are doing with GST, just like they are doing with Work Choices, just like they are doing with the baby bonus. With all these things, no matter where you look at it, they are the party of contradiction. I think Australians have woken up to this. They know that the NBN is an important piece of infrastructure for our future. They want it and they want it now, and NBN Co. should be given the opportunity to continue rolling it out and to make sure everyone gets access to high-speed broadband.