Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
STANDING COMMITTEE ON INFRASTRUCTURE AND COMMUNICATIONS
17/03/2011
Role and potential of the National Broadband Network

CHAIR —Welcome to the hearing. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that the hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. We do not have a written submission from you. Would you like to make an opening statement?

Mr Schinck —The comments that Jeff and I would like to make are largely based around Ballarat and the way that we are positioning ourselves, the way that we are growing and the benefits of high-speed internet access and broadband for both Ballarat and also within a regional context—the surrounding region, the Central Highlands region and, more broadly, western Victoria.

Ballarat is one of the fastest growing inland cities—we last year recorded a growth rate of some 2.3 or 2.4 per cent—largely due to its connectivity to Melbourne and drivers such as affordability, quality of lifestyle and access to services, particularly health and education. We are seeing very rapid population growth in Ballarat. We have a population at present of somewhere between 94 and 96 thousand, depending upon which statistics you look at. By 2026 our population, based on the lowest scenario, will grow substantially to around 118 to 120 thousand people. That is a significant population shift in a short period of time, and that is at a very moderate growth rate as well. We have in fact done some projections at more medium and higher rates of growth.

In terms of Ballarat’s role and function, obviously we are an employment centre for the region. We have a diverse economy that is establishing across a number of sectors. In a moment Jeff will talk a little bit more about that and the role of ICT and broadband for those sectors. Fundamentally, Ballarat is positioning itself and is fast becoming—whether or not we are planning for it—a service hub for the rest of the region. That is the Central Highlands region and Ballarat is the largest regional city in western Victoria. To that end, we are a centre for employment, jobs, economic activity, retail and services, as well as an important hub for access to health and education services. In that capacity we need to ensure that we put in place a very robust plan for growth in the future of Ballarat, which we have done. We have a very strong vision for the catalysts for growth: ensuring that we are able to retain and create liveability into the future. Broadband and very fast internet connection are an essential part of that.

To that end, I would say that as Ballarat is a significant regional centre in a substantial growth corridor there is a demand and expectation of those people who live here and who are coming here to live of a very high quality of lifestyle. Fundamental to that high quality of lifestyle is access to very fast internet services and broadband. Not only that but people coming to Ballarat also expect access to services, all the services that I have talked about previously, and the effectiveness and efficiency of those services very much rely on an effective digital network of services to perform adequately. As I have said, people rely on those health services, education and business services that, in turn, rely on those services for competitiveness and effectiveness.

In terms of our regional centre status we have been undertaking a substantial ICT study—and I understand that you will hear later this morning from a number of other representatives who will probably touch on this matter as well—where we have been working through the Central Highlands region and, more broadly, the Grampians region—that is that whole western Victoria corridor—looking at how broadband will impact on the region, with issues of unmet demand, infrastructure capacity to deliver it and obviously benefits for regional growth and productivity for those services being made available in regional Victoria.

From Ballarat’s point of view, certainly we see those services as being critical to Ballarat. If we web out from Ballarat, the ability to connect the region to Ballarat and to services that are fundamentally required by people who live in our region is particularly important. That is primarily what the work that we have produced to date is focused on. We have a very clear regional strategic plan and we have a very clear vision of how Ballarat needs to perform as a regional centre. We have been undertaking a substantial ICT study to realise and understand exactly what factors exist within the region in terms of the need for broadband, the unmet demand for broadband, the parameters around cost and price sensitivity, as well as how it will productively enhance the liveability of residents in that region. In terms of the link of broadband and fast internet services to business and the various economic sectors, I will hand over to Jeff to talk a little bit more about that. I will pass up copies of council’s economic strategy.

CHAIR —We will accept that as an exhibit.

Mr Pulford —As a council we see our role across economic development as not necessarily delivering a range of activities but in fact acting as the change agent or getting sectors to actually develop and understand what the opportunities are. Council has just finished, over the last 12 to 15 months, a complete revision of our economic development strategy. Basically, that is being driven by the population growth that Mr Schinck has talked about where, when we consider the Ballarat economy is in effect going to be serving a community that will increase by one-third in 15 years or so—95,000-odd up to 120,000—which is very rapid growth and presents very rapid challenges for our community.

I draw your attention to page 17 of the report that I handed you. This basically is the architecture of how council is involved in the economic activity of the city. It builds on the premise of the CEO, as outlined earlier, which is that in terms of a regional service delivery hub Ballarat is the capital of western Victoria. You may well be pleased to read that we aspire to be Australia’s premier hi-tech and knowledge based regional economy—and I will come to why and how that is in a moment—and a bigger and more diverse community. So it is about embracing population growth to make our businesses and economy more sustainable.

I particularly draw your attention to ICT which, as a propulsive sector, is actually from an ABS data point of view, not necessarily in the top seven or eight sectors but for us as a city it is clearly of importance and a priority, and I will touch on that in a minute. In terms of the role that the city has we firmly believe in and have for more than 10 years supported the role of an organisation called Ballarat ICT, which will be presenting to you this morning. Council funds, to a very large extent, the activity of this organisation. It is on the basis of an MOU and we have an independent organisation that basically consists of the best operators in ICT in the region.

We believe council should not necessarily be the holder of the knowledge of ICT. We should enable that activity and get the best people we can into the room. We believe that Ballarat ICT has been incredibly successful for us to date and certainly some of the witnesses later today will touch on that.

I would like to draw your attention to other information. Page 8 of the economic strategy highlights Ballarat’s retail catchment and Ballarat’s hospital service catchment. The reason I do that is that, in line with the CEO’s comments, our regional catchment actually comprises 400,000 people. That is the basis of a lot of development around those key sectors.

So when we talk about health as a sector it is not only about Ballarat’s population but also about the broader regional population. We have a very clear view about Ballarat acting as a service hub and that clearly relates to ICT. If you go to page 6 of that report, there is a matrix there which is a little bit difficult to read but nonetheless is quite an instructive piece of information about why we target certain sectors. The horizontal axis relates to whether we produce more than we consume within our local economy. So everything above the line is a net export sector for our economy. Everything above the line is a sector where we produce more than we consume locally and the vertical axis relates to job growth. Everything to the left of the line represents a reduction in jobs or employment. Everything to the right of the line represents job growth. So, in effect, our whole economic strategy relates to that top right part of the sector and, as we know, ICT sits within the ABS dataset of communication services. Quite clearly, as a city, we are focused on those sectors which clearly relate to health; community services; retail trade; education; accommodation; cafes and restaurants; cultural; recreation, which is in effect tourism; and government administration and defence services. That is why we make the choices we do.

CHAIR —Can I just clarify: this is council data?

Mr Pulford —This is ABS data and this is a council report, prepared on the basis of that. If you jump forward to page 10, in dealing with population growth we now as a result of work we have done in the last 15 months have a very clear understanding of where that growth needs to be and what the skills sets are that council needs to have a view about, which is then a challenge for the economy as to how they do it. I draw your attention to halfway down that table, to communication services within which ICT sits—and this is ABS data—where, currently, there are 1,346 and in the period of that 2026 target, where Ballarat’s population is increasing by one-third, we expect that sector to grow by almost 1,000 jobs, so 2.5 per cent job growth in the sector. So clearly ICT is a very important sector for us.

Mr NEVILLE —Is that your projection or is it ABS’s projection?

Mr Pulford —That is our projection based on ABS data. It uses SGS, who are an economics firm. They have some very clear economic modelling on how sectors grow and evolve. To distil down all of this information, what we are saying is that ICT is already a very large employer in Ballarat and the reason that we have priorities it is that it is actually a propulsive sector; it is an enabler for our economy.

If you could refer you back to page 17 again, which has a drawing of the areas that we care about in terms of the economy, clearly, a strong ICT sector will need to be linked with other sectors. We have four universities in Ballarat—the University of Ballarat, Australian Catholic University, Deakin University and Melbourne University are here in Ballarat now.

CHAIR —They have a physical presence?

Mr Pulford —They have a physical presence. The last two, Deakin and the University of Melbourne, relate to specific medical activities at the base hospital. They put through about 90 students. But we have very large campuses for both University of Ballarat and ACU.

The reason I want to make the connection is that council believes very clearly that ICT is an enabler for some of those other sectors. Through the federal government there is about to be a centre for manufacturing excellence built in Ballarat. That says that manufacturing is critical for Ballarat’s economy. The connection that we want to make for the purposes of today’s discussion is around ICT as an enabler for manufacturing and the commercialisation or opening up of the intellectual property universities. The council is currently engaged in a very detailed process with the universities and the manufacturing sector using ICT as a key enabler. It is one of those opportunities where, for us, while ICT is probably the seventh largest sector of our economy, it is fundamental to what actually makes our economy strong and vibrant.

Mr Schinck —It is certainly a focus of the region and it is articulated very clearly in the regional strategic plan for the Central Highlands region and also the Wimmera region, which makes up that whole western Victorian corridor. It is identified not from a technical point of view, but in terms of appreciating that capability in ICT is fundamental to capacity development within the region. When looking at the very strong east-west corridor that exists within this part of Victoria and the existence of a range of regional centres it is very easy to draw a nexus between the establishment of a network of broadband or very fast internet services as a way of actually connecting people to services, connecting people to people, adding productivity to business and increasing both the liveability and economic prosperity right across that whole regional corridor.

We are happy to take questions now and give you some of the detail of what we have broadly covered in a short period of time.

CHAIR —That was very useful.

Mr NEVILLE —If every community gave us a brief like that it would be excellent.

CHAIR —I want to discuss a few issues that particularly concern regional areas that have come up either through advocacy groups like the National Rural Health Alliance or through regional areas themselves. One of those is the capacity of the National Broadband Network to facilitate two liveability things, if you like, but also economic development. One is home based business. There was a gentleman in Tasmania who spoke to us who has a manufacturing design business that, because the size of documents it has to transmit, profoundly relies on very-fast broadband. He gave evidence about running his business from his home town and not wanting to have to relocate. Have you as a council had a look at the size and number of home based businesses and the sectors they operate in?

The other one is telecommuting. I come from Wollongong, which is the third largest city in New South Wales. It has a major commuter corridor to Sydney, so I am very interested in what you are talking about here. One of the capacity drivers is the ability for people with fibre to the home to telecommute.

Mr Schinck —I will make an opening comment and then pass to Jeff, who obviously has some details on it. From the City of Ballarat’s point of view this is actually quite critical to the regional plan. We are trying to avoid the absorption of economic activity from the region into Ballarat. We understand that in Ballarat we need to provide a foundation level of services and economic activity to support the region, but we very much support maintaining and developing industry sectors and businesses more broadly within the region. We see that there are strengths right across the region in different parts of the region that support various businesses. The feedback that was provided to the regional planning committee, which developed the strategic regional plan through community symposiums, was about the ability of businesses to remain based in small rural towns and niche businesses to be able to be developed out of homes, or vineyards or whatever those activities are through the use of broadband and very fast internet.

Mr Pulford —I will give two examples in relation to your question. The first is that tourism is a large sector for the Ballarat economy. More than half of that sector is home based tourism services that relate to bed and breakfasts and those sorts of activities and also to businesses out of the home relating to tourism products. We have clear data around that. Through our tourism activities the city has set up a number of activities that are web based, so we now have for the first time an integrated web based booking system for bed and breakfasts in Ballarat, which sounds minimal but the reality is that it has resulted in a substantial improvement in both the destination marketing of the city. We now have an integrated place for people to go. It has also meant that for businesses their booking systems are running much more seamlessly than they might have otherwise. That is the first bit.

The other bit, in line with the CEO’s comments, is really about regional service delivery. We make very strong positions for the city in relation to concentration of investment in major infrastructure and services in Ballarat. But that only works from regional bases if it is also recognised that there needs to be corresponding access via ICT services to clear activities around health and around a whole range of services and counselling activities that traditionally government might provide. That helps the notion of living in an outlying town in the Central Highlands region that does not have the capability for a sustainable health service, literally, because of population. We think that the opportunity for using ICT as an enabler for health delivery and a range of other services is obviously very important.

In terms of home based businesses, anecdotally we know that there are a large number that are increasingly having a presence on the web. It is a fundamental part of marketing. From Ballarat’s position, we have had a large transition in things like tourism services. We are moving away from a paper based delivery of tourism products, where literally the days of people fronting up to a visitor information centre and getting a bucket of leaflets about what to do for the weekend are over. Increasingly, our presence about marketing the city is electronic or web based. So we have a really detailed tourism presence that probably represents more than $1 million in investment by the city over the past three years.

Mr Schinck —The final comment I would make to substantiate that concerns some of the research that we have conducted in the region through the Central Highlands ICT Study, which was finalised in January this year. Based on our research across the region some 1,900 businesses would have subscribed to third-wave services if they had been available in 2009. So there is clearly evidence of the demand for these services; however, I do not have a breakdown of those figures across sectors or home based businesses.

CHAIR —It is an interesting thing for the committee in that we cannot actually identify anybody who is collecting information on the number of home based businesses that are out there already. Certainly the tourism stuff backs up what we did here in Tasmania, too. Profoundly, the evidence was that most tourists did research online before coming to an area now. Are you saying that that is also your experience?

Mr Schinck —Yes. And, from a regional planning point of view, the other principle that we have been using—and which is another reason broadband and ICT services fit into the mix so well—is that there is an economy to it. Yes, there are costs to produce and to put in the ground the infrastructure and to deliver the services, but it means that we do not have to replicate other forms of infrastructure from town to town within a region when we can create connections, whether it be through ICT, transport services or other forms of connecting type infrastructure which avoids the necessity to replicate other forms of service infrastructure broadly across the region.

CHAIR —The second part of my question is: do you have an indication of the size of your commuter base here, where they are commuting to, and what sort of work they are commuting for?

Mr Pulford —Yes we do, and I am happy to provide that outside of this hearing.

CHAIR —That would be great.

Mr Pulford —In effect, the regional fast rail has been a substantial change to the Ballarat community. One of the issues—and this is one of the tensions within our economic development strategy—is that we very strongly aspire to have a regional economy and not become a dormitory city, but there is a massive number of people who commute to Melbourne; anecdotally my understanding is that it is in excess of 3,000 people.

Mr NEVILLE —Per day?

Mr Pulford —Per day. That basically consists of people commuting, either by train or by driving, down to Melbourne, and we know the experiences of both those options. My understanding anecdotally is that a number of them also undertake their work at home for a number of days as part of that employment arrangement. The other thing I would like to point out is that, in the economic strategy on page 7, the drawing on the right-hand side talks about the origins of workers occupying Ballarat’s jobs. So we know that people commute from as far away as Maryborough and halfway to Horsham.

CHAIR —So you are seeing people commuting from your broader region into Ballarat, and then you also have about 3,000 going from Ballarat into Melbourne? So there is quite a bit of movement.

Mr Pulford —There is a lot of movement. Our workforce is 42,000. On top of that there are 3,000 residents who commute to Melbourne for employment. And we know that, of those 42,000, there is a proportion who—and this is in the data in the report I have provided—commute from the outlying central regions. So clearly there is a challenge for this city. We have spent 10 to 15 years investing in the ICT sector to get the hub that we now have—and that will be presented to you during the hearing this morning. The challenge for us is really around this: we believe that there are further opportunities for telecommuting and work-from-home arrangements that will deal with fundamental issues for the city in relation to infrastructure around the problems the city has in relation to car parking, commercial office space—all of those issues that are a growth challenge. So our challenge is around: we are increasing by one-third over the next 15 years, and we also have this increasing regionalisation of job provision in the Ballarat economy. Clearly, NBN is going to be a substantial factor in how that is dealt with.

CHAIR —One of the issues for us in reporting back to the government is what advice we are giving our government about what they can do to value-add on the NBN. With the telecommuting issue, what is your experience? Is someone driving it? Is it ad hoc? You seem to be talking to businesses about their understanding and utilisation of it. There are issues around occupational health and safety and so forth. Is it an ad hoc thing, or do you feel someone is driving it, or do you think there should be? And, if so, who might that be?

Mr Pulford —It is one of the issues that Ballarat ICT has considered, so the MOU that we have with them covers a large number of issues that council is very eager to get our best advice on from them. One is: what is the future of workplace arrangements? Will it always be location based or will it relate to data access to workplaces? Within my own staff, I have a large number of staff—and this relates to the workplace arrangements we have in place—who, because either they have young children or are single parents or whatever it is, one day a week attend from home and do their work remotely, and we are very happy to have their productivity. The reality of data at the moment, with the systems that council has in place for our workforce, is that it is not an issue. In fact, you actually find that it improves the productivity of the workers—they are happier, more settled and less stressed about the complexity of juggling life. So it has got some great benefits from our perspective.

Mr Schinck —Certainly you will be hearing later this morning, I believe, from Helen Thompson and George Fong, who have been undertaking the Central Highlands ICT study. Based on their research and talking directly to business and communities, I am pretty sure that they would have some evidence to be able to provide some insight into that issue.

Mr NEVILLE —Coming in on that last question while it is fresh in my mind: if they work from home remotely one day a week, what are the computer or linkage arrangements? Do you provide them or do you pay them a fee? Do they have to have their own computers at a certain speed? What is the practicality of it?

Mr Schinck —From the City of Ballarat’s point of view—and I can only offer this as evidence—in terms of what we provide for our staff, the expectation is that if we have staff working from home, we provide them with adequate technology to do so. That means a laptop or some form of connection from home. We meet the cost of those connections. In terms of speed and requirements, it is variable, depending on where they live within Ballarat and the region.

Mr NEVILLE —Is that by high speed or could that be done by wireless?

Mr Schinck —It is done in a variety of ways. It is done by wireless link. It is done by high-speed internet. It depends on, as I said, the location of the worker, what equipment they have at home and what we are able to provide them with.

CHAIR —You are saying you work around what is available—

Mr Schinck —Correct.

CHAIR —not the optimum that you would prefer.

Mr Schinck —That is right.

Mr NEVILLE —You make what you have got work.

Mr Schinck —Correct; we do.

Mr Pulford —The fallback, if I might amplify that, is we go to wireless, so we issue a wireless card.

Mr NEVILLE —That is an interesting change from what we have heard elsewhere. Just another question—I want to pick up from the chair’s questions too: we found in Tasmania a reluctance, especially in the B&B section of tourism, to connect with the internet. Have you found the same here? I got the feeling from your evidence that there is pretty well universal connection and that you have so much in your database of tourism, a person can go online to Ballarat and get the whole box and dice.

Mr Pulford —You have probably hit it on the head. Three or four years ago you would have found a very large spread of content on the internet that varied in quality and relevance, depending on the capability of the business and the person running the operation. What council did was work with the sector and say, ‘We will create the engine for it. You need to provide us with the following content,’ and it all just slots in very nicely. We have facilitated that, and the reason we do that is tourism is a very strong driver of our economy and it is a very competitive market. For us, as a city, we believe that we need to ensure that the economic outcomes are achieved and, in doing that, we provide infrastructure and capability that might not have happened otherwise.

Mr NEVILLE —You put a million bucks into that, you said in evidence.

Mr Pulford —The tourism web presence we have invested more than a million dollars in over the last three years.

Mr NEVILLE —That is quite unique in my experience. Just a few other quick questions: after Canberra and Toowoomba, you would be the biggest inland city in Australia.

Mr Schinck —We are one of the largest; I think we are.

Mr NEVILLE —I do not think there is anyone else. You have got this unique situation: having four universities here. Do I take it from that evidence—I am coming to health now—that accommodation with your base hospital and universities that you want to make this the hub for e-medicine, so to speak? All these outlying areas—and I imagine you have got regional hospitals and bush nursing centres—all hub on Ballarat. Is that the idea—to the extent you can. Obviously, if it is neurosurgery or something you would go to Melbourne.

Mr Schinck —Exactly. Jeff probably has some data around the health sector, but we have two hospitals based in Ballarat and a very strong medical sector based around that, with peripheral services provided by both of those service providers across the region. The direction that we are purporting is that we certainly need to be able to remain that service provider for the region but we need to improve the ability of people to access those services.

Mr NEVILLE —Does your council drive that?

Mr Schinck —Together with the sector, yes.

Mr NEVILLE —Describe how the sector feeds into it.

Mr Pulford —In terms of health?

Mr NEVILLE —Yes.

Mr Pulford —If you go to page 8 of that report it shows the health catchment. This is statistical data from the health service. So we know, literally to the kilometre, where clients for the Ballarat Health Services are drawn from. We understand that the health services are in charge of their destiny; council’s role is to act as an advocate and facilitator. This is probably tangential, but there was a very detailed quantity of work done around regional oncology services in Ballarat. Clearly, the view of the government, as they invested, I think, $65-odd million into the integrated cancer centre that is currently under construction, is precisely around this regional service delivery model. My understanding from discussions with the CEO of Ballarat health is that a large part of that is about out-services that are delivered into, as you said, small regional health services where they have discussions over the phone or through data—

Mr NEVILLE —Do all these towns like Avoca and Ararat and so on have hospitals?

Mr Pulford —Certainly Ararat does; Avoca does not; Beaufort does not.

Mr NEVILLE —Daylesford?

Mr Pulford —Daylesford has an integrated service. Ballan has one of the new—

Mr NEVILLE —Is that like a bush nursing centre or a day centre or something like that?

Mr Pulford —Yes.

Mr Schinck —Ballan has a superclinic.

Mr NEVILLE —Are you the service centre for Bacchus Marsh as well?

Mr Pulford —We tend to be. As you drive here, people from anywhere past Melton tend to come to Ballarat for service. If you consider the explosive growth in Melton, Bacchus Marsh and Ballarat, the health provision load—

CHAIR —Bacchus Marsh is one of the second-round rollouts of NBN.

Mr Pulford —Yes, it is. So we are obviously very excited about that as a model. Certainly the issue with Bacchus Marsh is that its population is ageing. In fact, it has a very large number of nursing home facilities being constructed. We expect that the health provision load for that will relate to Ballarat.

CHAIR —We have a health group giving evidence later. We can get more from them.

Mr SYMON —Jeff, do you have any information about how many households and businesses within Ballarat’s region are currently connected to the internet, either via dial-up or broadband?

Mr Pulford —Ballarat ICT will be presenting on that precisely.

Mr SYMON —I will ask them that question. Are you aware of any limitations that come with that? As was alluded before, the speeds within the city of Ballarat itself and the availability of providers are much greater than outside in the rural areas. From the point of view of competition, is that an issue? Is there enough competition in the provision of services to Ballarat and surrounding areas?

Mr Pulford —There are a number of issues. One relates to infrastructure. Certainly there is access to different speeds relating to the exchange that your home is served by. Ballarat ICT are probably better placed to talk about that. The issue for us is really around the third-party on-sellers of product or access to cable or ADSL. There is a fairly widely diverging product on offer. We are aware anecdotally of information where one household is accessing one particular provider and the household next door is accessing another provider at completely different service speeds.

That is more of a private sector product where, clearly, some providers in the Ballarat area are providing product at a slower speed because that is the wholesale rate they have bought it at, whereas others are seeking to have higher aspirations. It is one of those issues where, clearly, the Ballarat central area is well served. One of our concerns is that as Ballarat grows and as we have 14,000 homes built to our west in the Ballarat west growth zone, we are focused very clearly on how we make sure that in fact there is cable included as part of that development rather than it being shoehorned at the end.

That is one of those issues about who pays for the infrastructure; do we put in conduit or do we put in the whole lot? And do the developers pay? There are a whole lot of issues about how infrastructure is going to be provided which we are obviously eagerly awaiting—

Mr NEVILLE —How can you mandate that it gets—

Mr Pulford —As part of the precinct planning process we are actively considering it, but it is not yet in place.

Mr SYMON —When you say ‘cable to premises,’ do you mean fibre or do you mean cable?

Mr Pulford —By that I mean a non-technical term of access to high-speed internet!

Mr SYMON —Okay. It is one of the technical terms we are doing quite a bit with here at the moment due to the NBN, obviously, and fibre connection to premises. Following on that line; in evidence that we received in Tasmania about the connection of premises, Tasmania ended up going with an opt-in model of connection to premises. We heard evidence from business groups in the trial site in Tasmania—particularly representing businesses that were in leased premises—that missed out on the connection because the landlord did not take up the offer of the connection to the NBN.

As you have got Bacchus Marsh coming up as a second round site, has that issue arisen? Or are you aware of it? It appeared to arise in Tasmania because of a lack of understanding of the information—a free connection to a service is pretty good value, I would think, to any landlord. From that, I am just asking if you have heard of that, and is there a way you can get information out there with Bacchus Marsh to ensure that everyone who is offered the service connection can take it up?

Mr Pulford —There are two points on that. As a community, one of the roles of council is about ensuring that take-up is maximised. I would expect that we would take a very strong position about ensuring our businesses were not only aware but that we helped facilitate whatever was going to happen. That would be the first thing: if you distil what the economic strategy is for the city it is about us enabling people to be in the right place. In terms of the Tasmanian experience, in discussions with Ballarat ICT and Mr Ian Fry, who will present this morning, we certainly are aware of that phenomenon. We would obviously be very disappointed if that were not built on in any NBN rollout here.

Mr SYMON —At the moment, as you have said, businesses in Ballarat city have good service. Are there any gaps within the actual city area of service—do you have black spots?

Mr Pulford —Absolutely.

Mr SYMON —I am not talking rural areas, but close in?

Mr Pulford —As an example, part of my economic development team is actually about investment facilitation and getting businesses in. Probably the second or third question after we have talked about floor space is, ‘What is the access to data?’ The issue about that is actually getting a clear description of where the main trunks and access nodes lie. That can have a certain impact on businesses which otherwise find a commercial office space footing very attractive; because it does not have access to certain facilities it is then not attractive. It is a clear issue and obviously relates to Telstra owning infrastructure, and having to discuss with Telstra on a case-by-case basis.

Certainly from our perspective, we would be pleased if we could get a better understanding of exactly where the infrastructure does lie, because that would help our teams to facilitate employment much more easily.

Mr SYMON —So the current situation has a direct impact on business development?

Mr Schink —It is an impact, yes.

CHAIR —Part of what we would like to do in the report is to give some concrete examples of the utilisation capacity. You have talked about your own work from home policy, so if there is a case study along the lines of that which you would be able to provide to us that would be really useful.

The other thing you may want to consider as a follow up is if you have a particular council service that you deliver that relies on good connection to broadband from home or from businesses that you would like to provide as a case study example then that would be tremendously helpful to us.

Mr Schink —We would be very happy to.

Mr NEVILLE —If you are up in Canberra around the time of a conference or something like that and the parliament is sitting, I wouldn’t mind getting you guys back again. Could you let us know if you are going to be in Canberra at any time?

Mr Schink —Sure.

Mr NEVILLE —I think we could have spent at least another half an hour with you.

Mr Schink —We would be happy to come to Canberra specifically if you want to go into depth on this.

CHAIR —That is great.

Mr NEVILLE —Very good evidence.

CHAIR —It is very useful. Thank you very much for your attendance here today. If you have been asked to provide additional information, just forward it through to the secretary. You will be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence to which you can make corrections of grammar and fact. Once again, thank you very much. It has been very useful.

[10.47 am]