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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 8404

Broadband


Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (14:32): My question is to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy. Can the minister please advise the Senate of any recent developments with the National Broadband Network in regional 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) (14:32): I thank the senator for her question. Regional Australia has more to gain from broadband than the CBD and metro areas—there is no question about that. The Allen Consulting Group report in 2010 showed that regional output increases by almost 50 per cent more from additional conductivity than metro areas. That is why the Gillard government is ensuring that the NBN is available to all Australians at the same wholesale price wherever they are.

Over 70 per cent of premises in regional Australia will be connected to the fibre network. That is why people like Townsville businessmen Terry Hurlock and Peter Hone of Investment Pathways told the Townsville Bulletin on 26 September what the NBN means to them:

When it came along the street, I wasn't terribly excited. Now we are using it, I'm convinced it's the best thing since sliced bread. It's been a remarkable success for us.

Mr Hone went on to say:

Skype doesn't break up and fail like it used to. It's pretty important. We've got procurement links in China. I'm talking to people in America, Canada and Sweden. The NBN puts you in a better position to have an intelligent conversation.

Something you cannot have with you, Senator Heffernan. Mr Hone said NBN saved them time and money.

Regional businessmen like these understand the benefits of the NBN, unlike those in the far corner who have sold out and rolled over time and time again. The doormats of the Senate have a 100 per cent track record on this one. (Time expired)


Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (14:34): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Can the minister please provide further information to the Senate about how the fixed wireless service is being received?


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) (14:34): As senators know, the Gillard government is delivering the NBN to all Australians. Fixed wireless and satellite are being used to deliver the service to those premises outside the fibre footprint. The fixed wireless is surprising many with the quality of its service. A resident of Somerton, near Tamworth, Mr Lindsay Doyle told the Northern Daily Leader on 18 October that he had been opposed to the NBN fixed wireless service. Here is what he said:

Initially I thought it was a wicked waste of money and I just didn't understand it. Now that I've got on it, it's just made my life so much easier. I for one wasn't aware of its capabilities.

The Gillard government is delivering on its commitment. Senator Williams, sitting over there, ran around Somerton and Tamworth trying to oppose putting these powers up. (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting


Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (14:35): Mr President, I have a second supplementary question. Can the minister further advise whether the competitive market could deliver these same services to regional 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) (14:36): The competitive market has not delivered the broadband infrastructure this country needs in the 21st century—not in metropolitan Australia and not in regional Australia. It has especially failed in regional Australia. Unfortunately though that is not the view of those opposite. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition wrote in the AFR that he will not spend money on the NBN when faster broadband can affordably be delivered more swiftly through a competitive market. We had 11½ years of the competitive market. We had 18 failed broadband plans from the competitive market. We had those opposite ensuring Australia was a broadband backwater, and that provoked even senators Nash and Joyce to write about why we should have fibre to our homes. (Time expired)