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Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Page: 9764


Senator STEELE-JOHN (Western Australia) (19:39): To speak of the National Broadband Network is to speak of an infrastructure tragedy the likes of which we have not seen in this country in many years. It is to speak of an entire generation—indeed, an entire nation—that is being dealt out of the opportunities of the technological revolutions that surround us in our region by a government which lacks the vision, energy and technical literacy to take advantage of it.

The National Broadband Network was brought into existence in order to address one of the main failings of the Howard government: the failure to invest in telecommunications technologies that were necessary in order to allow Australia to take advantage of its place geographically in the region and of the opportunities of the technical economy. Since it has come under the stewardship of the coalition government, it has been victim to a catalogue of ideologically driven, technically illiterate solutions to mostly non-existent problems, resulting in a project which is now chronically behind schedule, delivering services which are in many cases worse than those which were being utilised by people before they came under the purview of the corporation.

In my role as the NBN spokesman for the Greens, I've already been inundated by people contacting me in relation to the issues and experiences they've had with the NBN. In the words of one:

Despite paying $10 a month more for what is supposed to be the same speed as pre-NBN, it is definitely not the same speed. I experience delays and buffering issues with streaming and accessing documents from the cloud. I think it's a huge rip-off that ISPs can charge more money for an inferior product. We are on fibre to the node and wish we could go back.

In the words of another:

My parents had issues with NBN installation. Their first order was cancelled, their second order was cancelled, and then Telstra disconnected their landline in preparation for installation. Apparently the installers went to the wrong address. Then the third order was cancelled. Now they are saying that there is no actual NBN readiness in their location, and they are still trying to get their landline back up again, but Telstra want to charge them a connection fee.

In the words of one who put this issue in a way that even the coalition could understand:

No infrastructure, no innovation, no business.

It is a national tragedy in so many ways that this product has been so comprehensively mismanaged. It is for my generation the key to accessing so many of the things which will enable our future to be brighter, from healthcare services to education services and beyond. Particularly for people with disability, it represents the opportunity to become far more socially connected than we might otherwise be and to access various medical treatments in a far more timely fashion.

The nature of the corporation at the moment is a disgrace. The failings which it is seemingly unable to rectify, brought about by the government's quite ludicrous perusal of a multitechnology mix which will be obsolete by the time it is completed, and the obsession with node technology, which is the modern equivalent of fitting phone boxes at the end of the street instead of connecting people to a landline, will become known as one of the greatest missed opportunities in Australian political history.

I will finish with a quote from a constituent which is both poetic and poignant. They said:

Sadness is waking up to discover the NBN is slower than the ADSL. Anger is knowing that they knew it when they laid the cables. Disgust is knowing that it didn't need to be this way.