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Monday, 26 November 2018
Page: 11392


Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (15:50): On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network, I present the committee's report entitled The rollout of the NBN in rural and regional areas (2nd report of the 45th Parliament).

Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).

Mrs PRENTICE: by leave—Only the coalition government is committed to completing the NBN effectively and efficiently to ensure all Australians have access to fast broadband as soon as possible at affordable prices and at the least cost to taxpayers.

In late 2017, prior to my appointment as chairman, the committee agreed to conduct an inquiry into the rollout of the NBN in rural and regional Australia.

Good communication is vital to the economic development and social participation of Australians living in rural and regional communities.

For those communities, the NBN provides a digital connectivity necessary to allow them to engage in those aspects of life that residents of metropolitan Australia take for granted—education, access to government and other services, and participation in the global marketplace.

There is no doubt that the rollout of the NBN to regional and remote Australia is challenging. We are the sixth largest country in the world, with a landmass of more than 7.6 million square kilometres. The population density in regional and rural Australia is less than one person per square kilometre. This is the most complex nation-building infrastructure project ever undertaken.

As a result of the approach from the coalition government, the NBN rollout is significantly more progressed in regional areas than in metropolitan Australia. At present, around 96 per cent of all homes and businesses outside major urban areas either can order an NBN service or have network construction underway.

There are a number of challenges inherent in delivering the NBN to rural and regional Australia. However, to put the challenges of connecting regional Australia into perspective, we need to look at the history of the NBN project to understand the design decisions that were made by our predecessors.

Back in 2010, under the former Labor government, the decision was taken to provision the network for a busy-hour minimum of three megabits per second.

Labor was completely clueless about the needs of rural and regional Australia, only factoring in a take-up rate of between 22 to 25 per cent across the entire satellite and fixed wireless footprint.

This means Labor expected more than 700,000 premises in regional Australia to not take up an NBN service.

In addition, the 2014 Fixed wireless and satellite review found the cost of providing improved services for satellite and fixed-wireless customers was $1.3 billion higher than projected in Labor's 2012 corporate plan.

The review also found that while Labor had planned for just 1,400 fixed-wireless towers, the rollout would require 2,900 towers to meet demand.

Only the responsible coalition government is investing more in regional telecommunications than any government before.

With regard to the Sky Muster satellite, NBN Co continues to examine ways that satellite capability can be further improved. On 12 November NBN Co announced it was consulting about a new satellite product called Sky Muster Plus, which will provide regional Australia access to more data and higher speeds.

Under the coalition government, the NBN will be completed nationwide by 2020—a full six years sooner than under Labor and at $30 billion less cost.

Our government is committed to delivering ubiquitous broadband.

Providing broadband access to areas that were previously deprived helps usher in new competition and reduce the tyranny of distance.

The coalition's rural prioritisation of the NBN rollout has helped unlock social, economic and entertainment possibilities through access to fast broadband. Last financial year, the NBN access network is estimated to have driven $450 million in GDP and the creation of an additional 1,750 jobs in the regions.

The opposition can harp on with inquiry after inquiry, but the fact remains that under the coalition government the NBN rollout is on track, is on budget and has more than 4.5 million premises connected and more than 7.6 million premises now able to order an NBN service.

In closing, I wish to thank all the committee members and the former chair, the member for Farrer, as well as those who made submissions and the witnesses who gave their time to appear at hearings. I also place on record the committee's appreciation and thanks for the secretariat's diligence and hard work.