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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 5069

National Broadband Network


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:55): My question is to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy. Can the minister advised that the Senate on recent developments with the National broadband network?

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Cameron is entitled to be heard in silence.

Senator CAMERON: Is the NBN on track to deliver its commitments and its rollout plans?




Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:56): I thank the senator for his questions and ongoing interest in the NBN. Last week I released NBN Co's 2012-15 corporate plan. Important progress has been made by the government and NBN since the publication of the 2010 corporate plan. Since then legislation has been passed, contracts have been signed, firm agreements have been put in place and there is greater regulatory certainty. With this greater certainty the capital cost of the NBN is $37.4 billion, a modest increase of 3.9 per cent.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order!

Senator CONROY: The plan released last week is therefore NBN's first operational plan. It confirmed that the NBN is a sound investment that will pay its own way and generate a 7.1 per cent return to the taxpayer.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator Brandis interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind those on my left that shouting across the chamber is disorderly. The minister is entitled to be heard in silence.

Senator CONROY: Economics 101, natural monopoly—look it up, George! In February the member for Wentworth said that he would hold the government to account on its promise of construction being underway or completed for 758,000 premises by the end of this year. The corporate plan confirms that the government is on track to meet this target that Mr Turnbull is going to hold us to. Fibre will have been commenced or completed in 758,000 premises by the end of 2012.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator Brandis interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Continue, Minister.

Senator CONROY: The plan demonstrates that the government is delivering on its commitment. Its rollout is on target, prices are coming down and you get a return to the taxpayer. (Time expired)








Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:59): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate if he has any evidence that there is demand for the NBN? Can the minister also advise if there is any evidence of demand for the speeds being provided by the NBN? And can the minister comment, if he likes, on Senator Stephens having the NBN satellite installed tomorrow, with a saving of $69 per month? (Time expired)

Opposition senators interjecting


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (15:00): Demand for the NBN is strong. In just a year, take-up in Kiama has been 38 per cent, and 35 per cent in Willunga. The member for Wentworth's commitment, in his speech last year at the Press Club, was to provide access for 24 megabits. And in May this year he said that 25 megabits were more than adequate for residential consumers. But just this week the Victorian Minister for Technology released a report from Deloitte Access Economics that finds, surprisingly, a strong demand for high-speed broadband, particularly for speeds above 50 megabits.

So the report found existing demand for 350,000 services at speeds above 50 megabits. But Mr Turnbull says, 'No, you can't have that. You can only have 25 megabits.' Mr Turnbull should meet the Victorian minister and they should have a chat. (Time expired)


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (15:01): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister outline to the Senate any evidence he has that the NBN is a sound investment for our future? Can the minister advise what the NBN means for the future of education, health service delivery and business productivity in Australia?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (15:02): The NBN, as I have already said, pays its own way. It generates a return of 7.1 per cent. But the benefits of the NBN are not just in its financial return to the government, but in its return to business and the broader community.

Over the last few months I have visited small businesses in Brunswick who are changing the way the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in Queensland delivers training courses for graziers. I have seen demonstrations of specialist health consultations to remote locations. I have participated in multiparty high-definition videoconferencing. The Gillard government recognises that the NBN is an investment in our future.

What Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull plan to do is sabotage our children's education and decrease patient care in this country. That is what those opposite are backing; that is what they are supporting—a second-rate network, built dirt— (Time expired)

Senator Chris Evans: Mr President, I ask a further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.